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White Stringy Stuff in Mouth When I Wake Up

The white stringy stuff in your mouth when you wake up is an aggregate film of bacterial plaque that is caused by toothpaste ingredients and dry mouth. The good news is that the condition is harmless but there are steps you can take to reduce its occurrence.


What is the white stringy stuff?

That white stringy stuff you find in your mouth upon waking up is actually just a collection of bacterial plaque. It is essentially all of the bacteria which are naturally present in your mouth, gums, and teeth which have come together to form a contiguous stringy white substance.


The photo below shows what it usually looks like:

White stringy stuff in mouth
White stringy stuff in mouth

Signs/Symptoms:

  • A film-like white substance that sticks to your cheeks, tongue, or lips.

  • It can be easily removed if you just wipe it with your fingers.

  • No pain or discomfort.

  • Very soft to the touch.


What it is not

A lot of people mistake the white stringy stuff for other oral conditions such as oral thrush or an allergic reaction. This white substance is NONE of those.


What it isn't:

  • Oral thrush. This condition will show up as white patches and it does not feel stringy. It can be wiped away but its appearance is very different and not alike at all.

  • Allergic reaction. This is most definitely not an allergic reaction because if it was, there would be redness around the area. A tell-tale sign of irritation is redness which is the polar opposite of having white stuff!


red irritated gums
red irritated gums

Therefore, don't go around panicking thinking you've an infection because it isn't.


 

Potential causes

The two main causes for white stringy stuff in your mouth is a combination of xerostomia and antibacterial toothpaste ingredients.


Antibacterial toothpaste ingredients cause it:

  • SLS. Sodium lauryl sulfate is a powerful detergent that removes everything from your teeth which includes food along with bacterial plaque. If there is a lot of SLS in your toothpaste, all of that bacteria will be off of your enamel and bunched up together as a white stringy substance.

  • Stannous fluoride. SnF2 is the premium version of fluoride which comes with a more potent antibacterial effect. You're more likely to form it if your toothpaste contains it.

  • Anti-tartar agents. The pyrophosphates in toothpaste prevent tartar from forming on your teeth. If they can't form on your teeth, they were form as white stringy stuff that'll stick to your cheeks/lips/tongue instead!


Stannous fluoride toothpaste with SLS
Stannous fluoride toothpaste with SLS

Dry mouth causes it: When your mouth is dry you will be more likely to notice the white stringy stuff forming in your mouth when you wake up. However, if you're adequately hydrated, you probably won't even notice it in your mouth.

  • The reason why you don't notice it when your mouth isn't dry is because your saliva washes it away and you naturally swallow it. If you swallowed it then there won't be anything to see there.

  • However, if your oral cavity is pretty dry then the white stringy substance will stick around in your mouth!


Essentially, the antibacterial toothpaste ingredients prevent the plaque from aggregating on your teeth and become free floating in your mouth.

  • Normally when your mouth isn't dry you'll naturally swallow this and not notice it.

  • If you've dry mouth, then it won't be swallowed and you'll notice it.


 

What should I do about it?

First of all, having white stringy stuff in your mouth when you wake up is a completely harmless condition so please don't worry.


However, if you want to reduce its chances of occurring we've two recommendations:

  • Drink more water. We promise you if you drink more water, you will barely even notice the white stringy stuff forming in your mouth. The adequate abundance of saliva will wash the white substance away. It's always healthy to drink more water!

  • Switch to another toothpaste. Perhaps the toothpaste that you're using is too strong and you can try switching to a "weaker" one that is less antibacterial. This usually does the trick because often times people find the white stringy stuff after brushing.


However, we wish to reiterate that the condition is not harmful and it usually forms in at least some amount regardless of what toothpaste you use. It's just that some of them may be more potent against bacteria so you just notice it happening more.


It's really not a bad thing.


Although to be absolutely sure that it is really just white stringy stuff and not an infection, you should schedule a consultation with one of our dentists in Long Island City. We can help you rule out other oral conditions that may be masquerading as it.

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About the author: Dr David Chen, DDS

Hello, I'm Dr Chen and I'm an actively practicing dentist in Long Island City, NY. I graduated from Columbia University College of Dental Medicine in 2016 but prior to going to dental school I was already working in the dental field. It's been more than a decade since I first got to know dentistry and let me tell you, time flies by quickly. Since then I've developed a fondness for writing, which is how this all got started!

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Medical Disclaimer:

This blog is purely meant for information purposes and should not be used as medical advice. Each situation in your mouth is unique and complex. It is not possible to give advice nor diagnose any oral conditions based on text nor virtual consultations. The best thing to do is to go in person to see your dentist for an examination and consultation so that you can receive the best care possible.

The purpose of all of this oral health information is to encourage you to see your dentist and to inform you of what you may expect during your visit. Due to the unfortunate nature of dentistry, there isn't really any true home remedies that will get rid of dental problems. Roughly 99.99% of them require in-person intervention by a healthcare professional.

Hint: That is the reason why you can't eliminate seeing dentists in your life!

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