Excess Saliva

Published: March 1, 2010

My friend has been having a terrible time with excess saliva for at least a year. He is a furniture maker who uses many shellacs and varnishes. He is at his wit’s end. Any suggestions?

Margie S.

Virginia

A swallowing study may be helpful, advises dentist Mike Brennan, at the Sjogren’s Syndrome and Salivary Disorders Center, Carolina Medical Center in Charlotte, North Carolina.

“Patients who report excess saliva are often unable to clear normal amounts from the mouth because of poor muscle control in the face and mouth or swallowing difficulties,” explains Dr. Brennan. “A swallow study may be helpful when a spit test measures less than 1 mL (about 1/4 tsp) per minute.

“Overproduction of saliva is uncommon, but when present, it is sometimes related to: prescription medications Pilocarpine (for glaucoma) and lithium (to stabilize mood); exposure to heavy metals such as iron, lead, arsenic, and mercury; and organophosphorus (acetylcholinesterase) poisoning. Excess saliva production has also been associated with gastroesophageal reflux (GERD).

“Treatment options for excess saliva are medications to decrease salivary flow, physical therapy to improve muscular control, and, in certain cases, more invasive surgical techniques involving the salivary glands. Consulting a physician, oral medicine specialist, or dentist about these options is recommended.”

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