In children, drooling is a normal part of development because every child is expected to drool at certain stages. Moreover, there are many medical conditions associated with drooling. Some can be easily controlled with therapy or medication, while other conditions may require more serious treatment and highlight a more serious medical condition.
Therefore, when a child drools excessively, it requires attention and probably medication. As a parent or caregiver, you should endeavor to consult a doctor in such cases to help you develop a treatment plan for the child.
Table of Contents
- What Is Drooling?
- Types Of Drooling
- Why Do Babies Drool?
- When Do Babies Start Drooling?
- How To Treat Excessive Baby Drooling
What is Drooling?
Drooling is the unintended overflow of saliva from the mouth. It is often as a result of weak or underdeveloped muscles around the mouth or plenty saliva. Drooling can occur with any condition that affects the neuromuscular control of the muscles around the oral cavity, leading to weak muscles that cause salivation (having too much saliva in the mouth).
The glands that make the saliva are the salivary glands. When these glands produce too much Saliva, a child might experience drooling.
It is important to know the few key structures that connect with the mouth;
Saliva is normally made in the mouth by three main pairs of salivary glands which are the parotid glands, submandibular glands and sublingual glands. Each gland has hollow tubes called ducts that open into the mouth when the saliva flows from the salivary glands through the ducts.
When drooling becomes excessive, it is known as Sialorrhea. However, drooling is normal in the first two years of a child because, at this period, the child does not have control over swallowing. Hence, It does play an important role in growth and development. For instance, it can be a sign of teething.
Furthermore, if your baby drools after smelling food, it indicates a proper sense of smell. Oftentimes, babies drool while eating. Moreover, as they grow older between the ages of 18-24 months they begin to have control over drooling because the muscles around their mouth tend to grow stronger. Drooling is also normal in children when they sleep.
In contrast, if your baby has medical complications such as cerebral palsy and he/she drools, then you need to consult a doctor. A cerebral palsy is a group of disorders that affects muscle movement and coordination. In most cases, it affects the vision, hearing and sensation of a child.
Types of Drooling
There are majorly two different types of drooling. They are anterior drooling and posterior drooling.
Anterior drooling occurs when a person spills saliva from his mouth excessively (often without control). Such cases can be embarrassing for a child especially when he is among his peers. It can also cause skin problems and other irritabilities like drool rash.
Posterior drooling is more severe because your children do not see the saliva coming out of their mouths. Instead of going to the stomach, it goes to the lung which causes aspiration pneumonia.
Why Do Babies Drool?
Some of the factors that cause baby drooling include;
Baby drooling begins after birth and continues till about after six months. It also continues when a child goes through the teething process.
This is the most common motor disability that affects the brains and muscles of children. Typically, children with cerebral palsy have problems with maintaining balance, posture, ability to work, among others. All of these conditions can also lead to drooling.
Strep Throat is a bacterial infection that is accompanied by swelling, bad breathe, fever, sore throat, and lack of energy. All of these affects the muscles that surround the mouth of the child, hence, leading to drooling.
Foods that have high acidic contents often cause excessive saliva production which leads to drooling. Some of these foods are grains, sugar, certain dairy products, processed foods, fresh meats and processed meats, such as corned beef and turkey.
When Do Babies Start Drooling?
In children, drooling is a usual part of growth. However, it becomes a serious issue when it is excessive or if a child drools after the age of two. Significantly, drooling is very common among babies between 2-3 months and lasts until a child reaches 12-15 months which is the teething period for most children.
Some babies drool infrequently, while others drool frequently. But there is nothing to worry about, as drooling is a part of their physical development. So be ready to change your baby’s dresses nearly 5-6 times per day.
Excessive drooling harms a child’s socialization, interpersonal relationships, integration into school and community life, self-esteem, personal care needs, equipment and skin. It affects the child’s psychology.
How to Treat Excessive Baby Drooling
The treatment of drooling depends on the age and condition of a child. Doctors don’t usually recommend any treatment for someone under the age of 4 or who drools during sleep. However, he may suggest a medication when drooling is serious. Drooling may be considered severe if saliva drips from your children’s lips to their clothes or if it interferes with their daily activities and creates social problems.
Excessive drooling can also lead to transporting saliva into the lungs, which causes pneumonia. (Pneumonia is a sickness in one or both lungs caused by bacteria, viruses, or fungi. The contamination leads to inflammation in the air sacs of the lungs)
However, your doctor will perform an assessment and come up with the management plan that works best for your child.
Some of these are;
Occupational and Speech Therapy
Occupational and speech therapists teach positioning and posture control to help improve lip closure and swallowing. Your therapist will work with you and your child on improving muscle tone and saliva control.
Therapists may also suggest that you see a dietitian to educate you on acidic food and modify the amount of acidic food in your child’s diet.
Use of Dental Device
A specific device is placed in the mouth that helps with lip closure during swallowing. It is an oral prosthetic device, such as a chin cup or dental appliance that helps with lip closure as well as tongue position and swallowing. This option works best if your child has some swallowing control.
Certain medications help reduce saliva production. Some of these are;
Scopolamine (Transderm Scop)
It comes as a patch and is placed on your child’s skin to deliver the medication slowly throughout the day. Each patch lasts for 72 hours.
It is given as an injection or in the form of a pill. This medication decreases your children’s saliva production but can also lead to dry mouth.
This is a special type of drug given as drops in the mouth. It is used for people during end-of-life care.
Salivary gland ablation
There is a new interventional radiology treatment for drooling called salivary gland ablation which involves injecting medicine into the salivary glands on one side of the mouth to reduce saliva production.
A small tube is inserted into the mouth, then x-ray imaging is used to accurately inject alcohol through the tube into the parotid gland. Also, ultrasound imaging is used to guide the chin up into the submandibular. Alcohol is injected through the needle using ultrasound guidance in the weeks following the treatment, as a result, all three glands make less saliva which reduces drooling.
The glands on the other side may need to be treated in a separate procedure. Salivary gland ablation is a useful procedure offered in interventional radiology to decrease Sialorrhea(excessive drooling).
Quite a few procedures are official for the treatment of drooling. The most common redirects the salivary ducts to the back of the mouth to avoid drooling outside of the mouth. Another procedure removes the child’s salivary glands completely which is only done in extreme situations and can only be done through surgical operations.
Baby drooling is a normal developmental experience. Nevertheless, if you’re concerned about how your baby drools, or have reasons to believe that saliva is a sign of another health diagnosis, take the issue to your doctor.
In addition, a speech pathologist, dentist/paediatrician may be able to answer your questions and provide good advice.