You may be surprised to learn that we each produce about 2–3 pints (1.5 litres) of saliva a day. We are usually unaware of it because we swallow it without noticing. Excessive saliva (sometimes called hypersalivation or sialorrhoea) is usually not something to worry about unless it persists. If you think you are producing too much (e.g. spraying spittle when you talk), and it is worrying you, here are some things to consider.
Things You Can Do
Do you have a dental problem? Your first port of call should be your dentist for a thorough discussion of the problem. Dental problems such as tooth decay (caries) or infections can increase the amount of saliva you produce. Crooked teeth can also cause saliva to spray out when you talk. All of these problems can be corrected by a dentist. Your dentist may also help you to decide whether you really are producing an excessive amount of saliva.
Are you taking any medications? Some medications may increase the amount of saliva you produce, while other drugs can reduce the volume of saliva, such as antihypertensives, antihistamines, antidepressants, antipsychotics and anti-Parkinson’s medication. Drugs like pilocarpine, though not commonly used, can increase saliva flow. If you are taking any of these, talk to your doctor about whether it is possible to change your treatment. However, one of these might be the most suitable treatment for you, in which case you would have to put up with the saliva problem.
Do certain foods make it worse? The taste buds on your tongue are the key to how much saliva you produce. Your taste buds will react to sour or spicy foods by telling your body to make more saliva. Acidic foods tend to trigger a lot more saliva than sweet foods. If excess saliva bothers you, think about what you eat and whether any changes to your diet might help.
Is it worse at certain times of your menstrual cycle? Some women notice that they produce more saliva during the second half of their menstrual cycle. This is normal and does not need any treatment.
Check your speaking habits. Do not speak and eat at the same time. After finishing a mouthful wait for a few seconds before speaking to give you time to swallow saliva. Try not to lift your tongue too much when you speak, as the openings of some salivary glands are beneath the tongue.
Drug treatments are only for people who have a severe problem with saliva, such as being unable to swallow it because of a neurological illness. Anticholinergic medications reduce the amount of saliva you produce, but their side effects may outweigh their benefits. Botulinum toxin (Botox) injections into the glands that produce saliva are another remedy, but the effect only lasts a few months.
Removal of a salivary gland or surgery to alter the route of a salivary duct usually provides a permanent cure for excess saliva but will only be considered in very severe cases.
Reducing the flow of saliva can cause problems because saliva has several important jobs to do:
- Saliva lubricates food to help swallowing
- Saliva washes the mouth
- Saliva contains an enzyme to start the process of digesting carbohydrates
- Saliva neutralizes acid produced by the bacteria in the mouth that might damage your teeth and it helps protect against dental bacteria
First published on: embarrassingproblems.com
Reviewed and edited by: Dr Anna Cantlay
Last updated: October 2020