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What Are the Common Causes of Brown Saliva?

Blood present in the saliva may give saliva a brownish color.
Chewing tobacco, which can cause brown saliva.
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  • Written By: Emily Daw
  • Edited By: Kaci Lane Hindman
  • Last Modified Date: 19 September 2014
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Brown saliva can be a sign of a number of conditions, ranging from harmless to severe. Probably the most common cause of brown saliva is the presence of nicotine. Other possible causes, however, include acid reflux or small amounts of blood in the saliva or mucus.

People who use tobacco products, either by smoking or using some form of smokeless tobacco, often have brown saliva. Nicotine from chewing tobacco or snuff dissolves in the mouth, and that which is not absorbed into the blood stream is usually spit out. Smokers may find that their saliva remains brown for a significant amount of time, even if they quit smoking, as their lungs rid themselves of cancer-causing nicotine. Inhaling second-hand smoke may have a similar effect.

Acid reflux, in which digestive juices from the stomach regurgitate into the esophagus, can also cause brown saliva, especially in the morning. In some cases, stomach acid even regurgitates into the mouth, giving the saliva a brown or yellow color. This is more likely to happen at night or when the patient is lying down, because gravity is not assisting in keeping the acid down.

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Blood may also give saliva a brownish color and may be present in saliva for any number of reasons. Sores in the mouth may bleed and turn the saliva either red or brown. Cold, dry weather or sinus infections may lead to bleeding in the nasal cavities. Flecks of blood can mix with mucus and drain down the throat and into the mouth, resulting in brown saliva.

While blood in the mucus or saliva may be harmless, it may also be a sign of more serious health problems. Coughing up blood is often a sign of tuberculosis (TB) or another severe infection. Anyone who is uncertain about the cause of his or her brown saliva should consult a doctor to rule out potentially dangerous diseases.

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pleonasm
Post 3
@KoiwiGal - That might help, but it won't completely prevent coffee and tea stains over time. You have to go to a dentist for that. Although it's mostly a cosmetic thing, rather than a problem with the health of the teeth.

The one time I was really worried about having brown saliva it wasn't because I was eating or drinking wrong. I was living in a city with very high air pollution and I noticed that my saliva was starting to be discolored. I always wondered if it would have eventually affected my teeth, but I was so concerned about the effect on my lungs that I didn't stay long enough to find out.

It's kind of scary what millions of people are willing to put up with in order to live in a city.

KoiwiGal
Post 2

Sometimes the simple explanation is the best one. If you've been eating brown food or drinking brown liquids (like chocolate or coffee) it will probably stain your saliva brown.

That's one reason it's a good idea to brush your tongue with your toothbrush as part of your nightly routine. This helps to remove more bacteria from your mouth, but it can also make sure that any food residue is removed from your tongue as well. Even though coffee isn't likely to cause any bacterial growth, it can still stain your teeth, so I think brushing it away is probably a good idea.

clintflint
Post 1

Acid reflux might be common, but you still might want to look into why it's happening. Often it has something to do with eating habits and might be related to the type or amount of food someone is eating.

It can do some damage over time and can be very uncomfortable as well, so if you can figure out how to stop it, that's probably a good idea.

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