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Drooling, or dribbling, is the unintentional loss of saliva from the mouth.
It occurs in infants, but as the infant gets older it usually decreases. Daytime drooling stops within the first few years of life, though older children may still drool during sleep. Beyond the age of about 4 years, it is unusual, unless there is an underlying medical problem.
Drooling beyond infancy may occur in some medical conditions such as:
In some conditions including cerebral palsy, drooling is usually related to:
Drooling is not usually caused by an excess of saliva as is sometimes thought. Instead it has been found that there is a tendency to swallow less frequently than normal. It can be made worse by a lack of head control and poor posture, lack of sensation around the mouth, breathing through the mouth, excitement and impaired concentration.
Drooling can occur in:
There are health and hygiene implications for people who drool most of the time and to excessive degrees:
A variety of techniques can treat drooling. Some are more successful than others, but treatment will depend upon the cause. For example, someone with a severe learning disability is not likely to benefit from a training programme that demands a high level of co-operation and personal input. Equally, surgery for removal or re-siting of salivary glands would not be appropriate for someone who may have a nasal obstruction, which is a major contributor. A ENT (ear, nose and throat) examination is necessary to identify the causes before choosing a treatment.
Treatments can include:
Your family doctor can make referrals to specialist services. You can also contact speech and language therapy departments in hospitals or clinics without a referral or through the private sector.
You can get more detailed information about speech and language therapy services from The Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists.
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