Drooling is normal in a teething baby or toddler. But what could be the cause after the teething is done?
By Sara Fleischer, MA, CCC-SLP
While reading Toby Lebovits’s article about the amber necklace and her teething toddler, I saw that she got started on that drippy wet topic…drool (insert chin wipe here). This is not referring to the sensational mouth-watering feeling when you pass by and smell the bakery, but the slobbery soaked drool-y chin your kid has that’s irking you. Have you ever wondered when drooling is okay or whether it’s a sign of a bigger issue?
In typically developing babies and toddlers, with no neurological or structural issues (such as cleft lip/palate), drooling is perfectly normal. Throughout infancy and its subsequent dreaded teething (and teething and teething endlessly) stage, and as a more mature swallowing pattern begins to develop, drool is age appropriate. However over the age of 2 (on average 3), and when teething has (finally!) ended, there are two basic reasons for that constant dribbly drool.
Disclaimer: This is assuming your child is feeling well! Strep throat, colds or other ailments can causes drooling. Additionally, some medications increase saliva production.
So now that we ruled out teething toddlers, sickness and/or meds, what’s causing the drooling?
Airway obstruction – enlarged tonsils, adenoids, deviated septum, and allergies are the most common reasons for drooling juniors. In those cases, it is recommended that the child be seen by an ENT who will make the necessary recommendations to help clear the airway issue. Think of a pint-sized nasal or pharyngeal (throat) airway, blocked by walnut-sized adenoids. Breathing and/or swallowing is a laborious task, why bother clearing all that saliva? Or can they even sense it with all that going on back there?
Oral Myofunctional Weakness – the child has an orofacial myofunctional issue (sometimes caused by the aforementioned airway issues), such as low muscle tone, low oral sensation or awareness, chewing and/or swallowing weakness including tongue thrusting. In this case it is recommended that a Speech Therapist, with Orofacial Myofunctional experience evaluate and work with the child’s oral muscles (lips, tongue, cheeks), sensation, chewing and swallowing to promote proper habits, and eliminate that drool=slathered chin.
Drooling can range from mild to severe, such as spit escaping during speaking, or leaky mouths when concentrating or playing, to drenched shirts requiring changing a couple times daily.
If you’re concerned about your child drooling, reach out to your pediatrician for referral to an ENT and/or SLP (Speech Therapist) that will be happy to evaluate the situation and provide the necessary treatment.
Sara Fleischer, MA, CCC-SLP, is a speech therapist in private practice specializing in Orofacial Myofunctional Disorders in school-age children in Lakewood, NJ. She is passionate about her area of specialty in remediating swallows, smiles, and speech. When she’s not evaluating and treating clients, she is fulfilling her key role as wife and mom of her family. You can reach her at SimplySpeechNJ@gmail.com.