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What causes drooling? 15 possible conditions

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 make 2 to 4 pints of saliva a day. When these glands make too much saliva, you may experience drooling.

Drooling is normal in the first two years of life. Infants don’t often develop full control of swallowing and the muscles of the mouth until they are between 18 and 24 months old. Babies might also drool when they’re teething. Drooling can occur in people who have neurological disorders such as cerebral palsy as well.

Causes and Risk Factors for Drooling

Drooling can be a symptom of a medical condition, 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 3 and 6 months as infants become more active. This is normal, especially when going through the teething process, so you shouldn’t worry.


Diets high in acidic content often cause excessive saliva production.

Neurological Disorders

Certain medical conditions can put you at risk for drooling. If a disease that decreases control of facial muscles affects you, you are more likely to drool. Neurologic disorders such as cerebral palsy, Parkinson’s disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or stroke may cause muscle weakness that affects the ability to close the mouth and swallow saliva.

Other Conditions

Drooling is usually caused by excess saliva in the mouth. Medical conditions such as acid reflux and pregnancy can increase saliva production. Allergies, tumors, and above-the-neck infections such as strep throat, tonsil infection, and sinusitis can all impair swallowing.

How Is Drooling Treated?

Drooling isn’t always treated. Your doctor usually won’t recommend any treatment for someone under the age of 4 or who drools 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 interferes 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, oral motor therapy, and pharmacological therapy. In more serious cases, you and your doctor may consider a more invasive approach, including treatment options such as surgery and radiotherapy.


Speech and occupational therapists help teach positioning and posture control to help improve lip closure and swallowing. Your therapist will work with you on improving muscle tone and saliva control. Therapists may also suggest that you see a dietitian to modify the amount of acidic foods in your diet.

Appliance/Dental Device

A special 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 as well as tongue position and swallowing. This option works best if you have some swallowing control.


Certain medications help reduce saliva production. Medications include:

  • Scopolamine, which comes as a patch and is placed on your skin to deliver the medication slowly throughout the day. Each patch lasts for 72 hours.
  • Glycopyrrolate, which is given as an injection or in the form of a pill. Robinul decreases your saliva production but can cause dry mouth as a result.
  • Atropine sulfate, given as drops in the mouth; usually used for patients during end-of-life care when they are having difficulties with drooling.

Botox Injections

Botox injections may help reduce symptoms of drooling by tightening facial muscles.

Surgical Treatment

Several procedures are approved for the treatment of drooling. The most common is a procedure that reroutes the salivary ducts to the back of the mouth to prevent drooling outside of the mouth. Another procedure removes your salivary glands completely.

What Is the Outlook for Drooling?

In children, drooling is a normal part of development. But if you notice excessive drooling or have any other concerns, you should always consult your child’s doctor.

There are many medical conditions that 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 serious treatment and highlight a more serious medical condition. Following a healthy diet and listening to your body can help to alleviate some problems. For anything serious, your doctor can help you develop a treatment plan.

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See a list of possible causes in order from the most common to the least.


Teething Syndrome

Teething syndrome-or simply "teething"-is a normal process that infants go through as their teeth break, or cut, through their gums. Babies normally start teething when they are six months old. By the time a child i...

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Diphtheria is a sometimes fatal bacterial infection that affects the nose and throat's membranes. Diptheria of the skin may show up as a red rash.

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Rabies is caused by a virus that affects the central nervous system. It can be transmitted by bites and scratches from an infected animal, often a dog.

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This condition is considered a medical emergency. Urgent care may be required.

Epiglottitis is characterized by inflamed tissue in your epiglottis. It's a potentially life-threatening illness. The epiglottis is at the base of the tongue.

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Bell’s Palsy

Bell's palsy is a condition that affects movement of the muscles in the face as a result of damage to the seventh cranial nerve controlling them. Significant damage of this nerve can result in paralysis of the face.

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Peritonsillar Abscess

A peritonsillar abscess is usually a complication of tonsillitis or another bacterial infection. Get it treated quickly to avoid potentially serious problems.

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Poliomyelitis, or polio, is a highly contagious disease that is caused by a virus that attacks the body's nervous system. It is most likely to be contracted by children under five years old.

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Muscular Dystrophies

Muscular dystrophies are a group of inherited diseases that damage and weaken your muscles over time. This damage and weakness is due to the lack of a protein.

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Myasthenia Gravis

Myasthenia gravis is a neuromusclar disorder. It results in weakness of the skeletal muscles, and can cause double vision and drooping of the eyelid.

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This condition is considered a medical emergency. Urgent care may be required.

Seizures are changes in the brain's electrical activity that cause violent shaking and loss of bodily control. Bruises can result from injuries sustained during a seizure.

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Herpes Stomatitis

Recurrent herpes simplex labialis, also known as oral or orolabial herpes, is an infection of the mouth area caused by the herpes simplex virus. It is a common and contagious infection that spreads easily.

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Tetanus, also called Lockjaw, is a serious bacterial infection that affects the nervous system and causes muscles throughout the body to tighten.

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Guillain-Barre Syndrome

This condition is considered a medical emergency. Urgent care may be required.

Guillain-Barre syndrome is a rare but serious autoimmune disorder. An infectious disease, like the stomach flu or a lung infection, usually triggers it.

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Chemical Burns

This condition is considered a medical emergency. Urgent care may be required.

Chemical burns occur when the skin or eyes come into contact with irritants, such as acids or bases. Symptoms vary, but skin reactions, pain or numbness are common.

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ALS (Lou Gehrig's Disease)

Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) is not contagious. It is a degenerative disease that affects the brain and spinal cord. A chronic disorder, it causes a loss of control of voluntary muscles. The nerves controllin...

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This feature is for informational purposes only and should not be used to diagnose.
Please consult a healthcare professional if you have health concerns.