What is Hypersalivation, and How Is It Treated?
The phrase ‘mouthwatering’ is a compliment, meaning you think the food looks and tastes great. However, when you have excess saliva, mouthwatering can leave you feeling embarrassed about your condition. In certain situations, hypersalivation (excessive production of saliva) can give insight into your general health. It can be a side effect of an underlying condition; hence you should always consult your dentist if you think your mouth produces excess saliva.
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Below are some basics on hypersalivation, including causes, diagnosis, and treatment.
What is saliva, and why is it important?
Saliva is produced by the salivary glands and helps keep the soft and hard tissues of the mouth healthy. A healthy flow of saliva washes food away from your gums and teeth and helps break down food for easier swallowing and digestion. It also improves tasting and prevents cavities.
Moreover, saliva contributes to higher levels of fluoride and calcium, which helps to keep the enamel strong. While a dry mouth (reduced saliva production) can result in swallowing and digestive problems, excess saliva is also a problem.
What is hypersalivation?
Hypersalivation or sialorrhea is the excess production of saliva in the mouth, resulting in drooling. It’s not a disease but points to an underlying condition.
Symptoms of hypersalivation
Generally, hypersalivation includes excessive swallowing and spitting. Aside from these, other symptoms may include:
- Bad breath
- Infection of the skin close to the mouth (around the lips)
- Damage and softening to the skin around the mouth
- Chapped lips
- Poor taste
- Speech disturbance
Drooling and hypersalivation can lead to psychological issues and social anxiety and even impact your ability to speak properly.
Individuals with hypersalivation can inhale fluids, food, and saliva into their lungs which can cause pneumonia. This occurs when the coughing and gagging reflexes are impaired.
Causes of hypersalivation/drooling
Drooling can occur as a result of a physical disorder or the effects of drug use. Any medicine, condition and disease that weakens the mouth muscles and causes excessive saliva production or makes swallowing hard lead to drooling. Below are some causes of hypersalivation.
Eating acidic foods like certain fruits and alcohol can stimulate excess saliva production, which leads to drooling.
Individuals that have seasonal allergies might have excessive drooling. Other symptoms include:
- running nose
- itchy eye
Parkinson’s disease is a neurological condition that causes muscle weakness, especially in the face affecting the ability to close the mouth and swallow, consequently causing drooling.
Medication side effects
Some medication causes excessive saliva production. Some of these medications are those used for:
- myasthenia gravis
- alzheimer’s disease
- neurological conditions
- psychiatric conditions
Blocked or inflamed sinus passages or narrower than normal sinuses can lead to drooling since they make you breathe through your mouth.
Wrong sleeping positions
In people who sleep on their back, gravity causes excess saliva to travel down their throat or stay in their mouth. In stomach or side sleepers, gravity will pull saliva down and out of your mouth onto the pillow (drooling).
Babies are a little more likely to drool since they don’t have complete control over the muscles in their mouths. Drooling often occurs when a baby is teething. This is a normal developmental process and is not normally a cause for concern.
Dealing with Hypersalivation
The best way of dealing with excessive saliva production is to address the underlying problem. In most situations, getting treatment for a medical problem or changing medication will help to resolve the overproduction of saliva.
Aside from these, there are things that you can do to reduce saliva production. For instance, you can avoid foods and drinks that cause excess saliva production. These trigger foods vary from one person to the next, but alcohol and citrus fruits are common culprits.
Since alcohol naturally dries the mouth and triggers saliva production, you should swap an alcohol-based mouthwash to an alcohol-free one.
Anterior hypersalivation can be diagnosed by a caregiver or family member who notices excessive drooling. A medical expert will go beyond this observation and discuss other symptoms and run tests to determine the underlying problem.
After reviewing your medical history, the doctor might examine the mouth for other symptoms like:
- Foul odour
If you are already diagnosed with hypersalivation, the doctor may refer to a scale system to determine the severity of the condition. This helps determine the correct treatment option.
In some situations, like in babies, drooling is normal and doesn’t need treatment. However, health experts recommend treatment when it’s severe, embarrassing, and disrupts normal day-to-day activities. These treatments depend on the severity and the underlying cause. Some of the common treatment options include:
Oral devices help with drooling, ensuring the tongue, lip, and jaw positioning are correct. However, they aren’t comfortable. Moreover, they aren’t suitable for individuals who experience problems breathing through their nose or people that have seizure disorders.
For people whose drooling is caused by allergies, allergy medications can regulate saliva production. Doctors also prescribe medication to stop drooling in people with neurological issues.
Health experts can inject Botox directly into salivary glands to curb excess saliva production. Unfortunately, these injections don’t always work. But when they do, they can reduce excessive saliva production for a couple of months. The injections are administered into the parotid glands through the cheek.
Hypersalivation can be treated through surgery on the major salivary glands in some severe cases. The doctor can recommend the removal or the relocation of the glands so that the saliva is released into the back of the mouth, where it’s easier to swallow.
In situations where surgery isn’t a viable option, the health expert can recommend radiation therapy on some main salivary glands. The radiation will result in a reduction in saliva production.
Consulting a health expert is the best approach for information on symptoms accompanying hypersalivation and how to manage the problem. Based on the cause, hypersalivation can be resolved by treatment or need close monitoring over time.
In most severe cases, speech therapists are helpful as they help you to work through speech difficulties.
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