Dental Care

Excessive Saliva and Causes

 

There's no doubt that excessive saliva can be annoying, but is it anything more significant than that? 

In other words, if you have excessive production of saliva, should you be worried?

Most cases of too much saliva production are temporary.  They come on suddenly, last for a while, and then disappear on their own. 

Only rarely is an excessive amount of saliva a cause for concern.

The Basics

The salivary glands of adults typically produce between 1 and 2 quarts of saliva every day.  Typically, you don't notice it much because you're swallowing saliva continuously without even realizing it. 

Sometimes, though, the salivary glands produce excessive saliva, a condition which doctors refer to as sialorrhea.  Although usually not harmful in and of itself, excess saliva can be irritating as it can interfere with everyday activities such as talking, eating and even breathing. 

Excessive production of saliva can occur in men and women and from very young to old.  In some cases the excess saliva flows out of the mouth and causes drooling.

A wide variety of circumstances can cause too much saliva.  For example, certain types of medications can cause the salivary glands to secrete an overabundance of saliva as a side effect.  A similar process can occur in pregnant women due to high hormone levels, especially during the first or second trimester.

Health Conditions

An assortment of health conditions can also cause a temporary over-production of saliva.  For example, tonsillitis can cause an increased saliva production which stops when the tonsils are surgically taken out. 

Similarly, enlarged adenoids or an abscess located on or near the tonsils or pharynx can also cause temporary saliva overproduction. 

Respiratory infections or an infection of certain glands can also result in excessive saliva.  A common cold, strep throat and infectious mononucleosis are three common examples. 

GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease) is yet another fairly common health condition which can cause increased production of saliva.  Acute as well as chronic sinusitis can give rise to extra saliva production, as can allergies.

Relevant Neurological Conditions

Several more serious or unusual health conditions can also result in excessive saliva.  For example, the nerves that control the salivary glands can be damaged and cause those glands to secrete too much saliva. 

Certain neurological conditions can also cause excessive production of saliva, including cerebral palsy and Parkinson's disease.  Rabies can do the same, resulting in that disease being described as "foaming at the mouth."

The list of health conditions which can cause excess saliva production is long, and in addition to those mentioned above, they include:

  • Oral infections
  • Stomatitis (an inflammation of the mucous membranes of the mouth)
  • Bell's palsy (causes paralysis or facial muscle weakness
  • Tuberculosis
  • Syphilis

Swallowing certain poisons can also cause the problem.  For example, ingesting some pesticides can result in excessive saliva production.  Reactions to insect stings or the venom of certain poisonous snakes can have a similar effect.

Although technically not a health condition, new dentures, or dentures that don't fit very well, can also cause increased saliva production.  And teething commonly causes excessive saliva in toddlers and babies.  If a child drools because of the extra saliva in the mouth, he or she might develop a rash on the chin or cheeks, but it's nothing to worry about.

As you can see, a large number of things can increase the output of the salivary glands.  Almost anything occurring in the mouth, from tooth decay to oral ulcers to tonsillitis, can have that effect. 

Our brains are also one of the primary triggers for saliva production.  Just the thought of food - or smelling its delicious aroma - is capable of getting the juices flowing, so to speak.  And several psychological factors, including excitement, anxiety, fear and so forth, can alter saliva's natural flow.

Conclusions

Although the underlying cause can occasionally be a serious condition, an overabundant supply of saliva is itself hardly ever harmful.  It can, however, definitely be an annoyance. 

As with anything else about your body you're not comfortable with, you should schedule an appointment with your doctor if you're concerned about excessive salivation that seems to be persisting. 

Excessive saliva can be treated, at least in some cases, but the treatment that's appropriate - and whether it's successful - will usually depend on the cause.

 

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