As parents there are certain behaviours that are acceptable and even expected when our children are young infants, but that are cause for concern if they continue as our children become toddlers and preschoolers. Drooling is one such behaviour. A drooling infant is very common and is something we expect our children to grow out of. BUT, what if s/he doesn’t stop drooling? When does drooling become a problem? Are there ways to reduce drooling in our children?
Most professionals agree that drooling is acceptable up to 2 years of age or when teething is coming to an end. Some typically developing children drool until around 4 years of age. However, after 2 years, we generally do not expect to see children drool excessively or uncontrollably as saliva production slows down. Saliva is necessary for various functions, including speech and eating and digestion.
Excessive saliva production and drooling can have negative effects in a variety of areas.
Some causes of excess saliva production include teething, low muscle tone and /or swallowing difficulties. Excessive saliva production and drooling may require a professional consultation. Parents may wish to consult with a doctor, dentist and/or speech-language pathologist. Keep in mind that all children are different and some may drool more that others and for longer than others. An assessment may reveal the cause and a treatment program may be recommended where tips and suggestions are usually provided by a speech-language pathologist (S-LP).
Parents can work with their child at home to reduce the amount of drooling. A combination of approaches is best for treatment. The following tips may be beneficial (depending on the cause of the drooling)
- It is important that the teeth and jaw are in a good position to allow the lips to close. Check with your dentist if this is not the case.
- Use bibs and /or bandanas to cover clothing
- Try to keep the child’s head upright or slightly tilted back. Use verbal reminders and if necessary positioning aids
- Proper seating is essential.
- If the cause is related to weak muscles or low tone, the speech-language pathologist (speech therapist) can work on exercises to strengthen mouth, lips and swallowing muscles. The speech-language pathologist can provide a home program with these exercises.
- Depending on the age of the child, try weaning off the bottle. Encourage your child to use a sippy cup or drink from a straw instead of using a bottle. Discuss with your doctor first.
- Teach your child about the difference between a “wet” face and “dry” face
- Use a mirror to help him/her understand what you are talking about
- Provide visual cues by pointing to your own lips to remind him/her to swallow
- Provide positive feedback to your child when he/she makes attempts follow tips and decrease drooling.
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The Speech Therapy Centres of Canada offers a comprehensive resource library where you can learn more about how our speech therapists can help you and your toddler. Read more here: Help! My Toddler Isn’t Talking! Help! My Child is a Picky Eater!! Speech Therapy Children
Written by: Carolyn Davidson, speech-language pathologist, The Speech Therapy Centres of Canada.