People normally generate between 1 and 2 liters of saliva daily. It is produced by the salivary glands and helps maintain hydration of the mouth and its mucous membranes, is essential for the functions of chewing and swallowing food, and prevents various dental diseases such as cavities.
Although our eating, breathing and physical activity habits may cause saliva production levels to vary slightly, excessive salivation may be a problem that requires medical treatment.
What is hypersalivation?
Hypersalivation, also known as tialism, sialorrhea or chronic drooling, is an oral pathology that consists of the production of saliva at abnormally high levels or the patient’s inability to swallow saliva, phenomena that will have a direct impact on his or her daily life.
Hypersalivation can be classified into two types of cases:
- Anterior hypersalivation: this is the most visible type of hypersalivation, since it causes the patient to have an incontinence of saliva, which ends up overflowing out of the mouth.
- Posterior hypersalivation: this type of hypersalivation consists in the flow of saliva produced by the salivary glands towards the pharynx. It is the least visible type but can cause breathing problems.
Although hypersalivation is a fairly common pathology, it is still largely unknown and many patients come for consultation worried because they do not know what has led them to suffer from it and if there is any way to curb its effects.
Below we review the symptoms of hypersalivation or hypersalivation, its possible causes and the best treatments for each case.
What are the causes of hypersalivation?
Broadly speaking, the causes of hypersalivation can be divided into two main groups:
- Excessive saliva production: this is usually caused by the consumption of certain medications.
- Inability to swallow saliva: although saliva production is normal, the patient cannot keep it in the mouth or swallow it normally. It is usually due to causes such as:
- Parkinson’s disease.
- Facial paralysis.
- Brain damage or sequelae thereof.
- Neurodegenerative diseases such as Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS).
- Placement of an orthodontic appliance, dental prosthesis or gum inflammation.
Apart from these main causes, there are some cases in which hypersalivation may occur temporarily:
- Infants and children can often go through stages of hypersalivation as a result of tooth formation or lack of jaw muscle control.
- It is also a common phenomenon in pregnant women, caused by hormonal changes and the stages of nausea and vomiting.
7 Symptoms that warn you of hypersalivation
The most common signs of hypersalivation or hypersalivation are as follows:
- Continuous drooling
- Halitosis (bad breath)
- Dryness and flaking of the lips
- Jaw muscle fatigue
- Dermatitis in the chin area
- Alterations in the sense of taste
- Cough and nausea in cases of posterior hypersalivation
Treatments for hypersalivation
In case of symptoms of hypersalivation, the patient should consult a specialist in Dentistry or Stomatology, who will be able to estimate the degree of hypersalivation and the causes that may have caused it in order to initiate the best remedy.
Depending on the origin of the hypersalivation, the most common treatments are the following:
- Physiotherapy and oral training: in mild cases of patients with problems in facial muscle control or neuromuscular reflexes, facial physiotherapy and speech therapy exercise routines will be established in order for patients to improve their jaw control.
- Pharmacological treatment: when hypersalivation is caused by the effect of a drug, it is recommended to stop the administration of this drug and replace it with another drug that does not cause symptoms of excessive salivation. In any case, it is very important to follow the specialist’s instructions before stopping the intake of a drug or substituting it for another one.
- Botulinum toxin injections: a very effective treatment for hypersalivation is the injection of botulinum toxin into the salivary glands. This treatment will be recommended only in those cases in which hypersalivation is caused by an excessive production of the salivary glands, which will be partially plugged with botulinum toxin (Botox), thus reducing their activity.
The advantage of this treatment is that it is very effective and immediate, but its disadvantage is that the results are not permanent: the effect of the injections will last approximately six months and will require maintenance.
- Surgery for hypersalivation: in severe cases or when a permanent solution is sought, surgical treatment for hypersalivation is recommended, which consists in the removal of some salivary glands to reduce production, or to ligate the saliva-releasing ducts.
This surgical treatment is recommended only in patients who have not improved with other treatments and whose hypersalivation prevents them from leading a normal life. It is essential to go to a dental clinic that can advise you on this specific treatment.