Saliva is a hero for our mouth. It fights bacteria, helps us chew, protects us from infection and keeps the mouth clean. But what happens when there is too much saliva in the mouth? You have it drooling over your lips, or it spurts out of your mouth when you are talking.
Hypersalivation or excess saliva is a condition where the salivary glands produce excess saliva. More than a disease itself, it is a secondary condition because of some other disorder. Medically, the term is ptyalism.
Treatment methods include resolving the cause and diet modifications.
Role of saliva
Saliva is a crucial constituent of the mouth. It performs various functions.
- Saliva has an anti-bacterial nature, which fights the thousands of bacteria which enter our mouth. If not for saliva, our mouth would be a breeding ground for bacteria.
- It also protects us from oral infections that can attack our body.
- Saliva secretion helps in chewing the food and converting it into a bolus. It also contains digestive enzymes.
- By coating the mucosa of the mouth, it keeps us free of mouth ulcers, rashes, and mouth soreness.
- Saliva plays a defensive role in dental caries, halitosis, and gingival diseases.
- It also has a primary role to play in taste sensation. Saliva helps in transport of the chemicals to the papillae.
Causes of hypersalivation
There are many systemic conditions which result in excess saliva production. The cause of hypersalivation can be temporary, or it can be because of chronic disease.
- Pregnancy- Saliva production increases during pregnancy. The body undergoes many hormonal changes during this period. An expectant mother suffering from morning sickness will show increased saliva production in the mouth. (1)
Most of the times, this symptom resolves on its post-delivery.
- Throat Infections – When you develop a throat infection or a tonsil problem, there is excess saliva secretion. Even in sinusitis, saliva production shows a rise.
- Denture wearers experience a high volume of saliva in the initial days. When a prosthesis is new, the mouth takes some time to adapt to it. As a reaction, the body produces more saliva than usual. (2)
- If you have pathology in the mouth, the body reacts by producing more saliva. This is why you show symptoms of hypersalivation when you have an ulcer or any pain in the mouth.
- Poor oral hygiene is another factor which results in increased saliva production. Since the bacteria remain in the mouth, more saliva production takes place to manage the unhealthy environment in the mouth.
- Severe microbial infections like Tuberculosis result in overproduction of saliva. Other conditions include rabies, laryngitis, etc.
- Heartburn or acid reflux is a gastric condition in which there is a regurgitation of the stomach acid into the food pipe. Hypersalivation is a symptom of this condition, in addition to discomfort in the chest and burning sensation.
- Any disease which causes impaired muscle control causes hypersalivation. Parkinsonism, Bell’s Palsy, Cerebral Palsy, Stroke are examples of some serious conditions which show hypersalivation as a symptom.
- Psychiatric treatment drugs like tranquilizers and anticonvulsants are known to stimulate saliva production as a side effect. (3)
- Dental conditions that cause hypersalivation are tooth decay, severe malocclusion, and hypertrophied tongue.
Symptoms of Hypersalivation
When you begin to feel like there is too much saliva in your mouth, you will know right away. But there are some obvious symptoms of this condition. These symptoms may be more evident in some of the above conditions.
The saliva will drool onto your lower lip, giving it a chapped appearance. The skin around your lips will always feel soft and wet.
It is likely that you will develop an oral infection, along with bad breath from the mouth. Altered taste perception and dehydration are some other signs of hypersalivation.
Hypersalivation also affects a person’s psychological build up. Routine activities like talking and eating become socially awkward issues because of drooping saliva. This affects the self-esteem of a person.
When you visit your dentist with the complaint of excessive salivation, he or she will do a thorough clinical examination and assess your medical history. Based on any medications that you are under, or other symptoms, the dentist can diagnose hypersalivation.
The examination of the teeth, tongue, nasal passage and airways will aid the dentist in diagnosis.
It is essential to diagnose the underlying cause of hypersalivation, for which you may have to undergo some investigations.
Treating hypersalivation is about treating its cause, and tackling the oral problems that occur because of it.
Depending on the diagnosis, the treatment plan includes medications, therapy and local home remedies to control salivation. In severe cases, the physician will recommend surgery.
- Medications – Anticholinergic drugs reduce salivation. But, they are not preferred because they cause a range of side effects like urinary problems, drowsiness, and irritability.
- Therapy -Speech therapy helps to modify speech methods and get accustomed to talking with excessive salivation. Head and neck exercises and behavior modification techniques are also useful.
- Injections – Botox injections when administered in the salivary glands prevent the glands from producing saliva. (4) They act by inhibiting the function of the nerves and muscles. However, the effect is not long lasting, and you will have to take them repeatedly.
Home Remedies for Hypersalivation
You can control salivation to some extent by modifying your diet. Avoid the foods which trigger salivation. This varies from person to person. Use mouthwash regularly as this temporarily dries the mouth.
Maintaining regular oral hygiene is essential. This will reduce the chance that you will develop caries or gingival problems. If you happen to get any of this, it is your body’s natural reaction to produce more saliva.
Hypersalivation is a serious condition that not only affects the mouth but has psychological effects too. It is best to get your doctor to diagnose it so you can apply a suitable treatment modality for yourself based on the cause.