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Drooling Symptoms

Drooling, which means saliva runs out of your mouth and down your chin instead of being swallowed, may seem like a harmless — albeit odd — problem to have, unless of course you're deep asleep. However, when it happens uncontrollably it can cause damaged facial skin, embarrassment, frustration, and social isolation. [1]

It can also be a symptom of a more serious neurologic problem in anyone over the age of about two to four years. [1]

Drooling is also known by the medical terms sialorrhea or hypersalivation, and again is defined as saliva that runs out of your mouth beyond the margin of your lip. [1]


  • Facial chapping, skin damage, and infection from the persistent moisture on your cheeks and chin and having to constantly wipe it away. [1]
  • Mouth odor and "bad breath." There is so much saliva lost to drooling that not enough is left to maintain proper pH and help cleanse the tissues of your mouth. [1]
  • Difficulty swallowing due to food remaining too dry. [1]
  • Impaired digestion of starches, since this actually begins with the saliva in your mouth. [1]

Who is most often affected by drooling symptoms?

  • Drooling is normal in infants and toddlers, though it normally stops by the age of 18 months. [1]
  • If drooling continues or first begins after the age of four years, it is almost certainly due to some abnormal condition and should be addressed by your medical provider. [1]

Are drooling symptoms serious?

  • Drooling is not serious if it occurs only in very young children or in response to some temporary condition such as an injury to the mouth and teeth. [1]
  • However, the condition can interfere with quality of life if it becomes chronic and causes facial skin breakdown, social isolation, and psychological distress. [1]
  • Drooling can be a symptom of a serious neurologic condition, and sometimes other symptoms of neurologic illness might be ignored due to the more prevalent embarrassment regarding drooling. [1]

Drooling Causes

Many conditions can have drooling as a symptom. The most common are those involving dental problems, followed by neurologic illnesses and certain miscellaneous conditions. [1]

The most common cause of drooling is hypersecretion, or hypersalivation, which simply means too much saliva is being produced, which is usually due to: ### [1]

  • Teething, in a young child. [1]
  • Dental problems, in adults, which prevent the mouth from closing properly (malocclusion.) [1]
  • Poorly fitted dentures or other dental appliances. [2]
  • Injury to the inside of your mouth, possibly from misaligned teeth or dentures. [3]
  • Infection or inflammation of the tissues within your mouth. [1,4]
  • Inflammation of your salivary glands. [4]
  • Side effects of medications. [1]
  • In many cases, the exact cause of drooling cannot be determined. [1]

Less common cause types of drooling:

  • Alcoholism or drug abuse. [5]
  • Malformation of or damage to your jaw, preventing it from closing properly. [6]
  • Damage following surgery to your head and neck. [1]

Rare & unusual drooling causes:

  • Neurologic disorders such as mental retardation, cerebral palsy, Parkinson disease, or stroke. [1]
  • Loss of control following an injury that has caused nerve damage. [7]
  • All of these can result in difficulty swallowing, loss of oral and facial muscle control, and inability to sit up straight. [7,9]

We've listed some specific conditions that can cause drooling symptoms, along with how to identify each of them:

9 Possible Conditions

The list below shows results from the use of our quiz by Buoy users who experienced drooling. This list does not constitute medical advice and may not accurately represent what you have.

  1. 1.Ludwig's Angina

    Ludwig angina is a bacterial infection of the floor of the mouth and occurs beneath the tongue.

    Recovery is dependent on severity of disease.

    Top Symptoms:
    shortness of breath, fever, being severely ill, trouble swallowing, neck pain
    Hospital emergency room
  2. 2.Acid Reflux Disease (Gerd)

    Acid reflux disease, also known as GERD, occurs when the acidic contents of the stomach come back up into the esophagus. The most common symptoms are heartburn and regurgitation.

    With proper treatment, symptoms may be relieved within days & at most several weeks.

    Top Symptoms:
    nausea, sore throat, pain below the ribs, cough with dry or watery sputum, deep chest pain, behind the breast bone
    Primary care doctor
  3. 3.Stroke or Tia (Transient Ischemic Attack)

    A stroke is a medical emergency. Strokes happen when blood flow to the brain is stopped.


    Top Symptoms:
    dizziness, leg numbness, arm numbness, new headache, stiff neck
    Symptoms that never occur with stroke or tia (transient ischemic attack):
    bilateral weakness
    Emergency medical service
  4. 4.Bell's Palsy

    Bell's palsy (facial palsy) causes sudden weakness in facial muscles and makes half of the face appear to droop. The exact cause is unknown, but it's believed to be the result of swelling and inflammation of the nerve that controls the muscles on one side of your face or may be a reaction that occurs after a viral infection.

    Weeks to 6 months

    Top Symptoms:
    arm weakness, facial numbness, arm weakness, hearing loss, pain on one side of the face
    Symptoms that always occur with bell's palsy:
    face weakness, weakness in one side of the face
    Primary care doctor

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  5. 5.Parkinson's Disease

    Parkinson's disease is a lifelong condition movement disorder. It is caused by the malfunction and death of nerve cells which results in symptoms like tremors.

    Parkinson's disease is a lifelong condition with no cure, however, medication and behavioral modifications may help manage symptoms.

    Top Symptoms:
    anxiety, depressed mood, difficulty concentrating, nausea, constipation
    Symptoms that always occur with parkinson's disease:
    symptoms of parkinsonism
    Primary care doctor
  6. 6.Foreign Body Ingestion

    When a non-food object is ingested, it can have unpredictable and potentially dangerous effects on the body.

    Whether the foreign object is removed, or allowed to pass through the digestive system, symptoms should resolve within a few days.

    Top Symptoms:
    vomiting, deep chest pain, behind the breast bone, trouble swallowing, swallowing of something potentially harmful, gagging
    Symptoms that always occur with foreign body ingestion:
    swallowing of something potentially harmful
    Symptoms that never occur with foreign body ingestion:
    In-person visit
  7. 7.Esophageal Obstruction (Steakhouse Syndrome)

    When a large piece of food or an object gets stuck in the lower esophagus, it can produce some mild chest pain and excessive salivation (drooling).

    If large piece of food or object does not leave the esophagus within 12 hours, it must be removed manually. This should only be done by a physician.

    Top Symptoms:
    vomiting, deep chest pain, behind the breast bone, trouble swallowing, choking, swallowing of something potentially harmful
    Symptoms that always occur with esophageal obstruction (steakhouse syndrome):
    swallowing of something potentially harmful
    Hospital emergency room
  8. 8.Inflammation of the Epiglottis

    Epiglottitis is inflammation of the epiglottis, tissue that covers the trachea (windpipe), which helps prevent coughing or choking after swallowing. It is usually caused by the bacteria H. Influenzae but can also be caused by other bacteria or viruses that cause upper respiratory infections.

    Few hours to days

    Top Symptoms:
    being severely ill, shortness of breath, fever, sore throat, pain with swallowing
    Symptoms that never occur with inflammation of the epiglottis:
    Emergency medical service
  9. 9.Arsenic Poisoning

    Arsenic is a naturally occurring and hazardous substance. Arsenic poisoning results in a syndrome of medical consequences due to arsenic exposure, either accidental, intentional or occupational.

    3-7 days

    Ultra rare
    Top Symptoms:
    vomiting or diarrhea, abdominal pain (stomach ache), being severely ill, fatigue, nausea
    Symptoms that always occur with arsenic poisoning:
    vomiting or diarrhea, being severely ill
    Hospital emergency room

Drooling Treatments, Relief and Prevention

Seek immediate treatment in the emergency room or call 911 if:

  • You begin choking on your saliva or feel that you cannot breathe due to aspiration (inhaling) of saliva. [9]
  • You have sudden symptoms of stroke along with the drooling, such as severe headache, weakness on one side of your body, or loss of vision. [10]

Schedule an appointment for:

  • Referral by your PCP to neurologists, otolaryngologists (ear, nose, and throat specialists,) speech therapists, or occupational therapists. [1] Dentists and orthodontists can correct any tooth problems and create special pieces that aid with normal mouth function. [1] Physical therapy can be helpful for muscle control. [1]
  • Further discussion with your physician about specific treatments for your case. These treatments can include medications, [1] Botox injections to the salivary glands, [1] and sometimes surgery or radiation therapy done on the salivary glands. [1]

Drooling remedies that you can try at home:

  • Use pillows, cushions, or other supports so you can sit up straight and keep your head in a normal position. [1]
  • Apply small amounts of diaper rash cream to any severely chapped skin on your face. Diaper rash cream is meant to both heal your skin and repel unwanted moisture. [11]
  • For wiping away the drool, use facial tissues that contain lotion. Don't use cloths or regular tissues, since these can be too harsh for constant use on irritated skin. [12]

FAQs About Drooling

Here are some frequently asked questions about drooling.

Why am I drooling in my sleep?

Drooling or sialorrhea can occur more commonly when you are asleep than when you are awake. This is due to sleeping on your side with your mouth open. [13] Nervous system depressants, such as alcohol, also make you more likely to drool in your sleep. [5,14]

Why am I drooling when I'm awake?

There are a variety of reasons you may be drooling while you're awake. You may be producing excess saliva, [13] you may have pain or difficulty swallowing, [13] or you may simply have a numb mouth from visiting your dentist. [15] Pain or difficulty swallowing may be signs of an infection and you should seek medical care if you experience those symptoms. [13] New drooling associated with facial weakness or difficulty swallowing could be a sign of an acute neurologic problem and needs immediate medical attention. [16]

Why am I producing so much saliva?

Excess saliva production or hypersalivation can be caused by nausea, especially during pregnancy. [17] Other causes include medical conditions such as acid reflux (GERD,) [13] gastroparesis, [18] and mouth ulcers; [18] medications such as antipsychotics; [13] and toxins such as mercury and copper. [1,19] Interestingly, hypersalivation is also a sign of rabies though this disease is now rare in developed countries. [21]

Is excessive drooling a sign of a stroke?

Excessive drooling can be caused by a stroke. [19] A stroke can cause weakness in the muscles of your face and jaw, making it more difficult to keep your saliva from spilling out of your mouth. [19] A stroke can also cause difficulty swallowing [13] and weakness in your face, arms, and legs. [22] If you are concerned about a stroke, you should seek medical attention immediately and call 911. [22]

Can excess drooling lead to dehydration?

Yes. A healthy individual produces 0.5 to 1.5 liters of saliva a day. [22] If a significant portion of that amount is lost (not swallowed) in the form of drool, then fluid volume will need to be replaced. Otherwise, over time, the individual can become severely dehydrated. [13]

Questions Your Doctor May Ask About Drooling

  • Q.Have you ever been diagnosed with diabetes?
  • Q.Do food or drinks get stuck when you swallow?
  • Q.Did you swallow something that could have caused your symptoms?
  • Q.When you examine your face closely, do you notice any small twitches in your face?

If you've answered yes to one or more of these questions, try our drooling symptom checker to find out more.

Drooling Quiz

Drooling Symptom Checker Statistics

  • People who have experienced drooling have also experienced:

    • 3% Fatigue
    • 2% Fever
    • 2% Recent Increase in Crying
  • People who have experienced drooling were most often matched with:

    • 43% Stroke or Tia (Transient Ischemic Attack)
    • 37% Ludwig's Angina
    • 18% Acid Reflux Disease (Gerd)
  • Source: Aggregated and anonymized results from visits to the Buoy AI health assistant (check it out by clicking on “Take Quiz”).

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  2. Stierman K. Evaluation and management of drooling. The University of Texas Medical Branch. Published May 5, 1999. UTMB Link.
  3. Blahd WH Jr, Romito K, Husney A, eds. Mouth problems, injury. UW Health. Updated November 20, 2017. UW Health Link.
  4. Salivary gland disease and tumors. Cedars-Sinai. Cedars-Sinai Link.
  5. Freudenreich O. Drug-induced sialorrhea. Drugs Today (Barc). 2005;41(6):411-8. NCBI Link.
  6. Oromandibular limb hypoplasia. Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia Link.
  7. Facial paralysis. UW Medicine. UW Medicine Link.
  8. Autism and drooling: Why so common? What helps? Autism Speaks. Published January 29, 2016. Autism Speaks Link.
  9. Drooling. Parkinson's Foundation. Parkinson's Foundation Link.
  10. Corbett A. Am I having a stroke? Brain Foundation. Brain Foundation Link.
  11. Growing up healthy. American Family Children's Hospital: UW Health. UW Health Link.
  12. Best tissues. Consumer Reports. Published August 2013. Consumer Reports Link.
  13. Cummings S. Drooling in your sleep? Here's why it happens and how to treat it. The Sleep Advisor. Published November 29, 2018. The Sleep Advisor Link.
  14. Obstructive sleep apnoea. NHS. Updated July 14, 2016. NHS Link.
  15. Drooling. Wikipedia. Updated August 3, 2018. Wikipedia Link.
  16. Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. Regional West. Regional West Link.
  17. Suzuki S, Igarashi M, Yamashita E, Satomi M. Ptyalism gravidarum. N Am J Med Sci. 2009;1(6):303-4. NCBI Link.
  18. Interventional radiology. Texas Children's Hospital. Texas Children's Hospital Link.
  19. Hypersalivation ptyalism sialorrhea. University of Iowa Health Care. Updated September 27, 2018. UIowa Link.
  20. Madhusudana SN, Sukumaran SM. Antemortem diagnosis and prevention of human rabies. Ann Indian Acad Neurol. 2008;11(1):3-12. NCBI Link.
  21. Stroke: Signs and symptoms. UCSF Health. UCSF Health Link.
  22. Rhodus NL. Symtpoms of dryness: The importance of saliva. Sjogren's Syndrome Foundation. Published March 13, 2014. Sjogren's Syndrome Foundation Link.