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Drooling

What is drooling?

Drooling is a dripping of saliva from the mouth. A lot of drooling can irritate the skin of the face, neck, and chest. It can also be embarrassing to an older child.

What causes it?

It’s normal for babies to drool. As babies get older, they normally stop drooling. Most children don't drool after the age of 4 years. However, children with some disabilities drool a lot because their muscles and nerves don’t work properly and it’s hard for them to swallow saliva. A child may also drool if they are making too much saliva or if their teeth don’t fit together in the right way.

How is it diagnosed?

Your child’s healthcare provider will examine your child. Your child may have X-ray tests of swallowing.

How is it treated?

If your child drools a lot, the problem can be treated in several ways:

  • Treatment by a speech or occupational therapist
    • Therapists can help your child learn to close the lips, move the saliva to the back of the mouth, and swallow.
    • Learning how to use a straw to drink fluids can help.
    • Improving posture and body position can also be helpful.
  • Medicines

    Medicine may be used to help your child make less saliva while he or she is learning how to swallow better.

  • Surgery

    Surgery may be done to change the direction of the ducts that lead from the salivary glands to the mouth, or to remove salivary gland tissue.

    Sometimes the surgery may be done with a laser. This treatment allows a quicker recovery than other types of surgery.

  • Botulinum injection

    Shots of a medicine called Botulinum toxin (Botox) may be given into the glands that make saliva. The shots are given after your child is given an anesthetic to numb the area. This treatment helps reduce drooling and lasts up to 8 months.

How can I take care of my child?

  • Follow the treatment recommended by your child’s healthcare provider.
  • Use bibs to help protect skin and clothing. The use of bandannas, or a bib that matches the shirt or dress, especially in older children, can make the bib less noticeable.

Ask your healthcare provider:

  • How to take care of your child at home
  • What symptoms or problems you should watch for and what to do if your child has them

Make sure you know when you should bring your child back for a checkup.

Developed by RelayHealth.
Pediatric Advisor 2013.2 published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2012-01-06
Last reviewed: 2011-11-14
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
© 2013 RelayHealth and/or its affiliates. All rights reserved.
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