When the saliva flows out of a person’s mouth unintentionally, it is known as drooling. We have six salivary glands that produce saliva for us, and when excess saliva is made, we tend to drool.
Drooling is a common occurrence in babies. Babies start drooling at about three months of age. Some babies drool a bit, while others drool a lot.
If you see your baby drooling excessively, it could be due to the underdeveloped muscles in his mouth or excess production of saliva in his mouth.
But there is nothing to worry about, as drooling is a part of his physical development.
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What Is Drooling?
Drooling is defined as saliva flowing outside of your mouth unintentionally. It’s often a result of weak or underdeveloped muscles around your mouth or having too much saliva.
The glands that make your saliva are called the salivary glands. You have six of these glands located on the bottom of your mouth, in your cheeks, and near your front teeth.
These glands typically take 2 to 4 pints of saliva a day. When these glands make too much saliva, you may experience drooling.
Drooling is expected in the first two years of life. Infants don’t often develop complete control of swallowing and the mouth muscles until they are between 18 and 24 months old. Babies might also drool when they’re teething.
Drooling is also expected during sleep.
Drooling can occur in people who have other medical conditions or neurological conditions, such as cerebral palsy.
What Causes Drooling?
Drooling can be a symptom of a medical condition or developmental delay or a result of taking certain medications.
Anything that leads to excessive saliva production, difficulty swallowing, or problems with muscle control may lead to drooling.
Drooling begins after birth and peaks between three and six months as infants become more active. This is normal, especially when going through the teething process.
Diets high in acidic content often cause excessive saliva production.
Although babies don’t have a tooth by 6-8 months, the teething process begins quite early.
This is the reason why they start drooling as early as three months of age.
When the teething phase begins, there is excess saliva production, and they may drool excessively when a tooth pushes its way through the gums.
Open Mouth Posture
If a baby has a habit of keeping his mouth open for a more extended period, he might drool. If your little one keeps his mouth open for long due to a blocked nose or plainly out of habit, then he may not be able to swallow the saliva at regular intervals and hence may drool.
Staying Focused for Long
When babies and young children concentrate on a particular task, their mind gets stimulated. On stimulation, the saliva production increases six-fold.
During infancy, their ability to swallow excess saliva is inadequate. And when they focus on a task, their attention is diverted from mouth position and tongue movements, and as a result, this results in drooling.
The release of saliva from glands inside the mouth responds to the taste sensation of eating a variety of foods.
Eating sour or spicy foods lead to the release of saliva excessively. For example, if your kid eats spicy foods or fruits such as oranges, lime, grapes, he may drool excessively.
Many neurological disorders like Bell’s palsy and Cerebral Palsy display symptoms like drooling and excessive salivating.
Bell’s palsy is a temporary nerve condition that impacts one portion of the face.
Diseases affecting the brain like cerebral palsy, Bell’s palsy, and Wilson’s disease affect muscle control, which thus causes difficulty in swallowing, pooling of saliva in the mouth, and abnormal lip position, all of which may lead to drooling.
Certain medical conditions can put you at risk for drooling, mainly if they cause a loss of control of facial muscles. Neurologic conditions, such as cerebral palsy, Parkinson’s disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), or stroke, may cause muscle weakness that affects the ability to close the mouth and swallow saliva.
Side Effects of Medication
Some medications, including drugs used to induce sleep and reduce pain and medications used for eye checkups in children or even in mothers of breastfed babies, can cause increased saliva production.
Heavy metal poisoning can also cause hypersalivation, which can cause drooling in babies.
Drooling is usually caused by excess saliva in the mouth. In addition, medical conditions such as acid reflux and pregnancy can increase saliva production.
Allergies, tumours, and above-the-neck infections such as strep throat, tonsil infection, and sinusitis can all impair swallowing.
Is Drooling Common in Babies?
It is common for babies to drool, and a baby might drool for the first two years of his life. As an infant is not in complete control of the function of swallowing and his mouth muscles, he may drool, even while asleep.
If your baby has started drooling, you can expect this condition to continue until he turns 18 to 24 months old.
Drooling is quite common during the teething period, so be ready to change your baby’s clothes about 5-6 times a day.
It is pretty standard for babies to drool. But if a child drools even after the age of four years, then it is not normal.
Drooling in Babies Between 1 and 24 Months of Age
Drooling in babies is normal, and it even helps in their development. However, a baby may drool slightly too excessively at different stages of his life and as he grows.
When a baby is between 1 and 3 months of age, he may not drool at all. Drooling is rare at this time as a baby is always in a face-up position.
So he may not drool during this time or even after that. But some babies may start drooling by three months of age.
Drooling is slightly more controlled by this time, but it continues when the baby babbles or puts toys in his mouth. Usually, babies start teething by this time. Hence they drool.
By this stage, babies start rolling over and crawling. They may continue to drool as they are still teething. Teething can stimulate drooling.
By 15 months of age, most babies start walking and running, but they may not drool while they walk or run. However, if they indulge in activities or tasks which require concentration, they may drool.
Babies will not drool while indulging in regular activities or in activities that promote fine motor skills. But they may drool while they are being fed or are dressing.
By this time, drooling is minimal in babies. It is almost non-existent.
What Is Excessive Drooling in Babies?
An involuntary flow of saliva from a baby’s mouth after he has passed the average age of drooling can be termed excessive drooling.
If your little one drools a lot after crossing the age of 2 years, you should consult a doctor for the same.
Although it is often attributed to the overproduction of saliva, excessive drooling happens because of poor coordination between mouth and tongue. This lack of coordination can result in lousy swallowing.
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Why Does My Toddler Drool Non-Stop?
Parents of toddlers often wonder why their kiddos drool so much—especially when it appears that they have many of their teeth, and the issue can’t be blamed on teething.
(Generally, a child has all of their 20 “baby” teeth in the mouth by age two and a half to three.)
But fear not: Drooling is a regular occurrence in children before developing and controlling their muscles around the mouth and lips.
Part of that control means children can feel the wetness around the mouth and chin, frequently swallow to regulate the saliva buildup, close their lips, and ultimately control salivary suction.
This involves quite a bit if you look at all the steps that are involved in curbing drooling.
It usually happens around age two, but the delay in this development is not considered a problem until after age four.
Saliva serves several purposes, including the following:
- lubricating the mouth for chewing,
- swallowing and speech
- washing away debris
- preventing tooth decay by buffering
- acids in the mouth
- aiding indigestion
Too much saliva, however, can cause persistent wetness of the mouth and chin, leading to skin irritations and possible infections, water and staining of clothing, and may become a potential embarrassment as the child gets older.
Children who have neurologic impairments may show delays in this whole process.
Excessive drooling in an otherwise typically developing child may be due to an abnormal oral sensitivity, with or without delay in muscle control.
Less commonly, it is due to excess production of saliva. Other causes may include oral infections, nasal obstructions and medications.
The incidence of chronic excessive drooling is about 0.6 per cent.
To help deal with the excess drooling, you may need to keep absorbent bibs or wristbands on your child to help control the wetness.
Some young children are unaware of the drooling. If the problem becomes problematic to you, talk to your doctor; they might suggest a referral to a speech pathologist, dentist or ear, nose and throat (ENT) specialist who can assess your child’s needs and help develop a plan.
How Is Drooling Treated?
It is usual for babies to drool, and drooling is an integral part of their physical development and growth.
However, it is not normal if they drool once they turn two years of age. Therefore, if your toddler drools even after two years of age, you should not take it lightly.
You should consult a doctor as it needs medical attention. For example, if your child is drooling excessively, consult a doctor immediately as it might affect his social life, and his day-to-day activities may get affected.
If your little one drools a lot, your child’s doctor will look for the following signs to come to a conclusion and suggest a treatment for the same.
- If your child can seal his lips properly and move the tongue around.
- If your child is usually swallowing.
- If he has a stuffy or blocked nose.
- If the child has a natural swallowing reflex.
- The posture of the child and whether his jaw is firm or not.
Post these evaluations, the following line of treatment is followed:
- Helping the child to practice a closed-lip stance.
- Reducing acidic food from the child’s diet.
- Working on the child’s capacity to swallow.
- Tightening of face muscles.
- Improving oral-sensory awareness to help the child understand when his mouth or face is wet.
- Oral motor therapy to strengthen his jaw, cheeks, and lips. This therapy will help him swallow his saliva correctly.
Drooling isn’t always treated. For example, doctors usually won’t recommend any treatment for someone under the age of 4 or drool during sleep.
Treatment may be recommended when drooling is severe. Drooling may be considered severe if saliva drips from your lip to your clothing or your drooling interfere with your daily activities and creates social problems.
Excessive drooling can also lead to inhaling saliva into the lungs, which can cause pneumonia.
Treatment options are looked at on a case-by-case basis, but generally, your doctor will perform an assessment and come up with the management plan that works best for you.
The noninvasive approach includes trying things such as medication and oral motor therapy. In more severe cases, you and your doctor may consider a more invasive procedure, including treatment options such as surgery and radiotherapy.
Speech and occupational therapists teach positioning and posture control to help improve lip closure and swallowing. In addition, your therapist will work with you on improving muscle tone and saliva control.
Therapists may also suggest that you see a dietitian modify the number of acidic foods in your diet.
Appliance or Dental Device
A particular device placed in the mouth helps with lip closure during swallowing.
An oral prosthetic device, such as a chin cup or dental appliances, may help with lip closure and tongue position and swallowing.
This option works best if you have some swallowing control.
Certain medications help reduce saliva production. These include:
- Scopolamine (Transderm Scop) comes as a patch placed on your skin to deliver the medication slowly throughout the day. Each patch lasts for 72 hours.
- Glycopyrrolate (Robinul) is given as an injection or in the form of a pill. This medication decreases your saliva production but can cause dry mouth as a result.
- Atropine sulphate, given as drops in the mouth. This is usually used for people during end-of-life care.
Botox injections may help reduce symptoms of drooling by tightening facial muscles.
Several procedures are approved for the treatment of drooling. The most common reroutes the salivary ducts to the back of the mouth to prevent drooling outside of the mouth. Another procedure obliterates your salivary glands.
Does Drooling Play an Important Role in Baby’s Development?
Yes, drooling does play an essential role in the growth and development of a baby. Drooling is a sign of teething in a baby.
Drooling and blowing bubbles are also a sign of physical development in toddlers.
If your little one drools or blows bubbles, it is a sign that he has entered a new period of growth.
If your baby drools after smelling milk or food, you should know that his sense of smell is growing.
Drool contains enzymes beneficial for the baby to digest semi-solid or solid food between 4 and 6 months of age.
Saliva neutralises the stomach acid, and it helps develop the baby’s intestinal lining fully and protects the oesophagus lining from irritation.
Saliva also helps bind the food together due to its slick nature that facilitates swallowing.
What Is a Drool Rash?
Due to the constant dribbling of saliva through the mouth, a baby’s lower lips, cheeks, neck, and chest may show signs of skin irritation.
If your baby drools excessively, the saliva will come onto his cheeks, neck or chest, and you might notice red, bumpy rashes in these areas.
If the rash from drooling is around a baby’s mouth, it is known as a drool rash. To treat drool rash, you must wash the affected area properly, pat it dry, and apply a lanolin-based cream.
You can tie a bib around your baby’s neck to keep the drool from spreading onto the neck and chest area.
You can even apply petroleum jelly to the affected area to keep it moisturised and to help it heal quickly.
However, speak to your doctor before applying any creams or lotions on your baby’s skin.
When to Consult a Doctor
You should consult a doctor if your child drools even after he crosses the age of four.
Uncontrollable drooling that is caused by medical conditions can be addressed by consulting a paediatrician.
Talk to your baby’s doctor – he might suggest therapy or medication. However, if the treatment or cure cannot provide relief, you should consider a higher level of treatment.
Drooling is a natural way of helping the baby moisten and soften solid foods and makes them easy to swallow. Although it fulfils many essential functions for the baby, keep a close watch if drooling increases and shows no signs of abating after four. Get medical attention to address the problem before it worsens.
In children, drooling is a normal part of development. But if you notice excessive drooling or have any other concerns, consult your child’s doctor.
Many medical conditions cause drooling, so you should consult your doctor if you notice that you’re drooling excessively or uncontrollably.
Many problems can be easily controlled with therapy or medication, but some conditions may require more severe treatment and highlight a more serious medical condition.
Following a healthy diet and listening to your body can help to alleviate some problems. However, for anything serious, your doctor can help you develop a treatment plan.
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