Saliva is an integral part of your mouth hygiene. Saliva helps in the digestion of food, keeps your mouth clean by flushing the debris, aids in speech, keeps your mouth moist and fights infection because of its antibacterial properties. Your salivary glands produce close to 1-1.5 liters of saliva daily. However, sometimes people can have excessive saliva in their mouths. Excessive salivation is called ‘Hypersalivation’ or ’Sialorrhea’. Increased salivation beyond the margin of your lips is the cause for drooling.
Is hyper salivation a cause of concern?
Drooling is normal in infants till the age of 15-18 months. Excessive salivation in infants help in
- Neutralize the gastric acid preventing infant gastric reflux thus protecting the gut.
- Reduce teething pain. Teething begins in you baby from 4- 6 months.
Drooling in infants is a problem only if the developmental stages are delayed. Drooling in children is acceptable till the age of 4. Drooling in adults can be because of an underlying medical condition. Dental problems can cause temporary drooling and can be socially awkward. But, the condition is totally reversible.
What causes drooling?
Drooling can be because of increased saliva in your mouth or decreased clearance of saliva. Difficulty in swallowing can reduce the ability to clear saliva in the mouth.
Excessive production of saliva can be because of certain medical conditions (Gastroesophageal reflux, cerebra palsy, Parkinson’s disease, Liver disease, mouth ulcers, oral infections, anxiety), People on certain medications like tranquilisers and substances like mercury, copper, arsenic and nicotine. Temporary hypersalivation can be seen in conditions like pregnancy, teething, dental cavities and infections, use of dentures.
Reduced clearance of saliva can be seen in infections (like tonsillitis, mumps), malocclusion, fracture or dislocation of the jaw, enlarged tongue, stroke, radiation therapy and neuromuscular disorders.
What are the signs of drooling?
The obvious signs of hyper salivation is drooling or spitting. However, some other signs can also indicate the condition. These are
- Bad breath
- Chapped lips
- Inflammation in the mouth
- Difficulty in eating or drinking
- Altered speech
Mouth watering can be annoying. The reason for excessive salivation may not be serious. However, you should not ignore the condition. The best thing you can do is to talk to your dentist, who will help you understand the condition better and guide you on the best treatment option.
What are the treatment options for drooling?
Your treatment plan will depend on the underlying cause. Drooling because of medical conditions is a team approach. The team includes
- Speech pathologists and occupational therapists
- Dentists and orthodontists
Treatment for excessive salivation includes use of
Medications. Certain drugs are known to reduce saliva production. These meds are anticholinergic drugs ( These drugs block the nerve innervation to the salivary glands and reduce the production of saliva)
Injections. Your doctor may recommend Botox injections. The botox toxin is injected to one or more major saliva glands. This toxin paralyses the nerves and muscles in the area, preventing the production of saliva from the glands.The effect may last upto 5 months.
Radiation therapy. Radiation of the salivary glands causes xerostomia ( Dry mouth ). This is the treatment of choice in the elderly who cannot undergo surgery.
Surgery. In sever cases of drooling, surgery of the salivary glands has shown good results. Your doctor can decide to remove the salivary gland or redirect the salivary duct. The most successful options includes ligating the parotid gland duct ( Gland in front of the ear ) and excision of the submandibular gland ( Gland in the mouth under the tongue ).
How can your dentist help you with drooling?
Your dentist/ orthodontist will make an assessment of your bite. If a malocclusion is the cause of drooling then a treatment plan will be done accordingly. Your dentist can make a plan to fill decayed teeth or treat other oral infections. If you are a denture wearer, your dentist will guide you on proper denture care. Brushing and flossing with a tooth paste can have a drying effect on your mouth. Brushing removes plaque and reduces inflammation of the gums. In addition you can also use alcohol based mouth wash.
This condition is quite common and you are not alone. Please talk to your loved ones who will understand your condition. Seek medical help to tide over the condition.