Why does my child drool and what can I do to help him?
Drooling may occur for a variety of reasons (e.g., reflux, allergies, teething) but when it is due to weakness or low muscle tone of the mouth, it is a speech therapist you whom you should consult. I am a speech therapist and I help children eliminate drooling with oral motor therapy.
It is normal for children to drool prior to 18-24 months when they have not fully developed the muscles of the jaw, lips and tongue. This weakness can also affect speech intelligibility.
Low muscle tone in the mouth may result in drooling due to:
- Diminished sensation / awareness of saliva on the mouth, lips or chin
- Inability to maintain lip closure (which could be due to weakness of the jaw)
- Reduced ability to retract saliva (indicative of problems with tongue retraction)
Your child’s body / trunk should be examined for low muscle tone as well, as an unstable base for the jaw, lips and tongue may make therapy efforts moot.
Before consulting with a speech therapist, here are some tricks to try:
- Eliminate the use of the bottle and the sippy cup, as long as your child’s nutrition will not be compromised. This should occur around 12 months of age.
- Speak with your child about a wet face vs. a dry face and give him a dry towel to clear saliva. Terrycloth wristbands can be worn to dry the mouth / chin as well.
- Each time your child dries his face, he should close his lips and swallow (you may have to teach your child what “swallow” means).
If the problem persists after trying these techniques for one month, speech therapy can begin and sessions will be more productive.
If you have additional questions about your child’s drooling, please contact me: Stephanie Sigal, M.A. CCC-SLP, Speech – Language Pathologist.
Stephanie works with children in their Upper East Side homes in Manhattan.