Simple TIPS & Tools to deal with Excessive Elderly Drooling
Excessive drooling among the elderly is not uncommon. However, it is still embarrassing and should be a source of concern because it could be a sign of an underlying problem. Unfortunately, drooling in the geriatric age is inevitable due to body changes. If you find yourself drooling or having a build-up of excess saliva, you should consult with a healthcare expert. The expert will assist you in understanding the causes and how best to manage the situation. Sometimes, the solution is as easy as adjusting your sleeping position. Other times, a more serious intervention such as surgery may be needed. What exactly causes excessive drooling among the elderly, and how can you deal with it? Read on to find out.
Causes for Drooling in the Elderly
Excessive drooling in the elderly is  caused by different factors that are explored below.
Infections and Allergies
If your body is allergic to certain things or you have an infection, the salivary glands may produce excess saliva. This is a normal body process to flush out toxins, so you should not worry much. Seasonal allergies are among the most common causes of excess saliva production and drooling. They cause a runny nose, itchy eyes, and sneezing besides drooling. These allergies are normally triggered by pollen from plants and mold.
Respiratory infections and sinus congestion can also cause excessive saliva production. When the sinuses are inflamed because of allergies, colds, or other nasal problems, they cause a blockage that causes unnecessary drainage. The drainage sometimes comes out as a drool. Other conditions that cause drooling are strep throat or pharyngitis, and tonsillitis. These conditions make it hard to swallow because the throat hurts. Strep throat can be caused by either bacteria or viruses. On the other hand, tonsillitis is the inflammation of the tonsils. The two conditions make swallowing difficult due to the pain and hence the accumulation of saliva in the mouth.
Usually, the excess saliva comes out as drool. If one of these conditions is making you drool, you should seek medical attention from an ear, nose, and throat specialist.
Drooling occurs when the saliva escapes your mouth unintentionally. For some seniors, this happens in their sleep, especially when sleeping on the stomach or side. Sleeping on the back usually helps with drooling because the saliva does not have a quick escape. Sleep apnea is a condition that often causes drooling. This condition narrows or blocks the airway.
Sleep apnea can be obstructive, meaning that the airway is frequently blocked during sleep. It can also be central sleep apnea, where the brain fails to send the correct signals to make you breathe during sleep. Central sleep apnea causes irregular breathing during sleep, leading to excess saliva production that comes out as drool. Seniors with sleep apnea should seek immediate medical attention.
Side Effects of Medications
Some medications increase saliva production and cause drooling. These include prescription drugs for psychiatric disorders, Alzheimer’s disease, and Myasthenia gravis. If medications cause drooling, you should see a behavior specialist to discuss alternative treatments or manage the excess saliva production. Excessive drooling during the day can be managed using the best adult bibs for eating to prevent the drool from soaking your clothes.
Stroke and Neurological Disorders
Stroke and some neurological disorders cause dysphagia, that is, difficulty while swallowing. In severe cases, one cannot swallow anything at all. This causes the accumulation of saliva in the mouth, and it escapes in the form of drool. Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), Parkinson’s disease, and Bell’s Palsy are some of the neurological conditions that cause dysphagia and, consequently, excessive drooling. Stroke, in particular, causes inadequate blood flow to the brain and destroys the nervous system. An impaired nervous system makes it hard to swallow.
Treatments for Drooling
Drooling once in a while is almost always not a cause for alarm. However, if it is persistent, severe, and has a negative impact on daily activities, medical attention should be sought immediately. Excessive drooling can cause saliva inhalation into your lungs and cause pneumonia, so it should be treated with urgency. Normally, treatment is done on a case-by-case basis after the doctor conducts a thorough assessment of the older adult. A treatment plan that works perfectly for one person may be inappropriate for another.
The treatment options for excessive drooling can either be invasive or non-invasive. We have explained these options in detail below.
Therapy is one of the non-invasive treatment options. It is conducted by speech and occupational therapists. These experts teach the elderly how to position themselves and how to control their posture. They also educate and sensitize the elderly on how to close lips and swallow. The main aim of this form of therapy is to improve saliva control and muscle tone. Normally, speech and occupational therapists work closely with qualified dieticians and nutritionists to adjust the number of acidic foods consumed daily.
Medical and dental experts can recommend using special devices that the elderly place in the mouth to assist with mouth and lip closure. These oral prosthetic devices help with swallowing. For example, sometimes chin cups are recommended because they help with tongue positioning. Dental devices or appliances are normally recommended to seniors who already have a bit of swallowing control.
Doctors can sometimes prescribe medications that reduce saliva production. Some of these medications are:
This drug is administered in the form of a patch that is placed on the skin. The patch delivers medication into the body slowly throughout the day, and each patch can last up to 72 hours.
This medication is administered in the form of a pill or injection. It decreases saliva production but can cause dry mouth in some people, so it should be used with caution.
Atropine sulfate is administered in the form of mouth drops. It is mainly used for the elderly or younger people on end-of-life care.
NB: It is important to mention that although these drugs effectively reduce saliva production, they also have side effects. Some of the common side effects are dry mouth, vomiting, dizziness, impaired vision, headaches, and constipation. If you notice that medication is not controlling or reducing drooling, seek immediate medical attention.
Most of us think that botox injections are for cosmetic reasons because we have seen celebrities doing it. However, they can also be used for medical reasons. These injections tighten facial muscles, thereby reducing drooling.
Several approved surgical procedures can be done to stop excessive drooling. One of these procedures is re-routing the salivary ducts to the back of the mouth. Doing this prevents saliva from escaping your mouth. Alternatively, the salivary glands can be removed completely as the last resort.
Excessive drooling among the elderly is very common. If you experience this once in a while, it is not a reason for worry. However, frequent drooling could be a sign of an underlying medical condition. Although drooling may not look like a big issue for some people, it impacts the quality of life of the elderly. Excessive drooling can be difficult to control, but some medical interventions can be employed to resolve it. These include oral devices, therapy, medications, and in severe cases, surgery.