Sudden Excessive Drooling in Toddlers – Causes And How To Manage

Is your toddler drooling all over your clothes? Why is your baby drooling so much, and when will it stop? Many questions must be puzzling you right now but worry not, for you are at the right place to know the answers to your questions.

While producing saliva is a normal function of your toddler’s body, but excessive drooling, if accompanied by other factors like fever, might be a sign of some other distress. Excessive drooling in itself is pretty rare in toddlers; only about 0.6% is accounted for as chronic excessive droolers. Common causes are abnormal oral sensitivity or poor muscle control. Other major causes, rare, include oral infections, nasal obstruction, neuromuscular disorder, and others.

We’ll dive deep into why your toddler is drooling so much. We will also be discussing the reasons behind this drooling. Things you can do at home to help them during this phase and things you should avoid. Finally, if there is excessive drooling accompanied by other side effects, how to deal with it.

Why does drooling happen?

Drooling, in simple terms, can be explained as spillage of saliva from the mouth. While adults can control their saliva, but as infants and toddlers, they have weak muscular control, leading to drooling.

It is usual for your baby to experience drooling for the first 2 years as they’re still learning about their muscular control, so they might also be drooling in their sleep. It’s abnormal for children above 4 years of age to drool.

If they’re still drooling after going through their teething process, it might be because of something else. Excessive drooling might be a sign of underdevelopment, some kind of sickness like tonsillitis, neuromuscular disorder, or mental retardation.

Different causes for toddler drooling

Toddler biting down on a brush stick, and drooling as a result of it, because he is in the teething phase.

Teething

This is the most typical and primary cause of your toddler drooling and is nothing to be worried about. Until the age of 6 months, your baby will drool because their motor skills are still weak, and they don’t have much control over anything.

As their teething starts, their gums are irritated and swell up. During this stage, they produce a lot of salivae, and it is normal for them to drool during this age. The salivary reflex is stimulated by eruptions of teeth, which results in hypersecretion of saliva.

Neurological Reasons

Drooling is common in toddlers with the central nervous system and muscular disorders such as cerebral palsy, facial nerve palsy, myasthenia gravis, and polymyositis. All these mentioned cause muscle weakness that affects the ability to close the mouth and swallow saliva.

Treatment for drooling caused by neurological disorders can vary based on the cause and degree to which it impacts your toddler’s life.

Tonsillitis

Toddler girl holding her throat, she's drooling excessively because she has tonsillitis.

Drooling is also a side effect or result of tonsillitis. It is when your toddler’s throat hurts, commonly called a sore throat. It can either be viral or bacterial and may affect the sore throat, swollen glands, or red and white patches in the throat.

Since your toddler’s tonsils are swollen, they might not be able to swallow their food comfortably, which is another reason why a liquid diet is ideal during this time.

Less swallowing leads to more saliva in the mouth, which can come out during your toddler’s sleeping time as drool. Don’t worry, as this is easily treatable by visiting your pediatrician for medication.

Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea is a sleeping disorder where your toddler’s airway is blocked or narrowed. There are two types: obstructive sleep apnea, where your toddler’s airway is repeatedly blocked during sleep. Another is central sleep apnea, when the brain isn’t sending the right signals that your toddler needs to breathe.

This causes excessive drool production when your toddler is sleeping. Usually, this is pretty easy to solve and handle on your own as you can change your toddler’s sleeping position to stop the drooling. Try to make your toddler sleep on their back as this is the right position to stop drooling.

Other reasons for drooling:

  • Lack of awareness of external salivary loss
  • Inadequate lip closure resulting in an open mouth posture
  • Absent or impaired oropharyngeal sensation
  • Abnormal movements/abnormal tone of the tongue and lips
  • Poor posture
  • Dental problems
  • Mouthing of objects
  • Medication is used for other purposes.

How can I help manage my toddler’s drooling?

Toddler girl drinking from a straw to help with her excessive drooling.

Drooling can be managed in many ways depending on the severity of the case. If you observe a mild or intermittent amount of drooling in your toddler, you can still wait and watch and do a few things to help manage it.

  • Take away their sippy cup and instead teach them to drink from a straw. Get one of those environment-friendly metal straws and teach them to drink from it. It should help to some extent.
  • An essential thing to do is teach them the difference between wet and dry faces and try to implement it daily. You can show your toddler in a mirror by comparing both dry and wet mouth and teach them to wipe it frequently.
  • After they have learned about wet and dry faces, you can teach them how to wipe their face. You can make your toddler wear a sweatband on their wrist and teach them to wipe their drool throughout the day.
  • Positive feedback is also another thing that you can enforce, which will help your toddler improve a lot.
  • You should make your toddler wear some sort of scarf to keep their body and clothes dry as scarves can be changed throughout the day.

Negative enforcement like shouting at your toddler to stop this habit or getting angry at them and other related emotions will never help them; they’ll instead get scared of you. So whatever you do, never proceed with a negative emotion as this will only scar your child emotionally.

If your toddler is drooling for more than 6 months, then there might be another issue. You should seek advice from your pediatrician, who can examine your little one and give you proper advice.

Assessing drooling in toddlers

A specialist would suggest some other ways after assessing the situation of drooling in your toddler. They will gather some information, and you as a parent might have to answer some critical questions. They will then assess the situation from the data collected and observing your child.

Other solutions are provided to the parents, like a speech specialist, some kind of dental treatment required, consulting ENT specialist, or some other recommendations.

Other recommendations to manage drooling

The list mentioned below is only to be followed when suggested by a professional, and do not try to deduce a solution by yourself at home. Below information is to be consumed for basic knowledge, so you are aware of some things before paying a visit to your doctor.

Conservative management

  • Management of underlying problems
  • Helping children be more aware of saliva and oral movements
  • Eliminating mouthing behaviors
  • Encouraging children to swallow more and wipe their face
  • Improving and maintaining oral health

Oral appliances

Some toddlers might benefit from wearing certain oral appliances. These are made in cooperation with the speech therapist and a dentist. Depending on what appliance is needed for drooling to stop or reduce in frequency.

Medications

Medication is useful for kids where maturation of oral function may still occur or for a toddler where parents don’t opt for surgery.

Surgical management

Surgery for excessive drooling is only recommended for children 6 and above, well beyond the toddler years. It’s an option only after a specialist has gone through all his efforts to fix the situation, and nothing seems to work.

Conclusion

You as a parent can do several things at home to help remedy excessive drooling in your toddler. Give it some time, up to 6 months, for the situation to get back to normal.

On the one hand, drooling might be because of some common known causes like tonsillitis or teething. On the other hand, it might be due to some other reasons where recognizing early signs can lead to a quick diagnosis and process of fixing it.

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