You may want to think twice before you take a puff and pucker up this Valentine's Day. As it turns out, cottonmouth, or simply dry mouth, can give you halitosis, according to Los Angeles–area dentist and bacteriologist Dr. Harold Katz.
“When there isn't enough saliva in the mouth, the bacteria that cause bad breath can thrive,” he says.
Katz, known as the “Bad Breath Guru,” has been treating patients with halitosis for more than two decades. Saliva keeps your breath fresh, he explains, since the oxygen levels keep the bacteria causing bad breath in check. When you have cottonmouth from smoking weed, you no longer have enough saliva to keep the bacteria at bay. “Anything that makes your mouth more dry will give you bad breath,” Katz says.
As more people smoke cannabis, more patients have been complaining about bad breath, he says.
Cottonmouth can happen no matter how you consume cannabis, whether via smoking, vaping or edibles. When THC, the main psychoactive cannabinoid, or chemical compound, in cannabis, interacts with the cells controlling saliva secretion in the mouth, they reduce the flow of saliva, hence causing dry mouth.
To combat dry mouth — and the bad breath that comes with it — Katz developed a line of mouthwash and lozenges called TheraBreath that help users create more saliva. “The mouthwash has the enzymes found in natural saliva,” he says. In addition to the enzymes, which allow the mouthwash to mimic healthy saliva, the mouthwash also contains plant-derived glycerin, which gives your mouth a slick feel, and jambu, or spilanthes acmella, flower extract.
Therabreath, of course, isn't only for cottonmouth (nor is it explicitly marketed toward cottonmouth). “A common phenomena is that dry mouth is increasing,” says Katz. “Seventy-five percent of medicine has dry mouth as a side effect.”
So whether you're getting ready for a Valentine's Day date, or simply want to combat your cottonmouth, remember how important saliva is in keeping your breath fresh.