Most mature salivary glands produce about 600mls per day. Resting or unstimulated whole saliva is produced at a rate of 0.3-0.5ml/minute while stimulated saliva is 1.0-3 ml/minute.
Natural Development of Saliva Control
- Drooling is the unintentional loss of saliva from the mouth and it can give the appearance of excessive saliva production, although this is not always the case. Drooling is considered a normal phenomenon in children before they develop adequate oral neuromuscular (nerve and muscle) control related to positioning, activity, oral muscle functioning, and the integration of these muscle movements. This is achieved about the age of 18-24 months.
- Drooling occurs normally when a child is acquiring a new motor skill, and until the skill becomes automatic, the drooling may continue. When a child cuts a new tooth, drooling occurs before, during and just after the event.
- Since the production of saliva is related to the digestion of food, infants produce only a small amount of saliva before the age of 3 months as their only diet is cow’s or breast milk. The minimum amount is made for the purpose of keeping the mouth moist and clean. However, as the child grows, glands enlarge and more saliva is produced. As the textured food changes from liquids to semi solids, chewing skill develop. The infant is then required to learn to control the saliva amounts that fill the mouth whilst they are not eating.
Saliva Control Stages of Development
Below illustrates the naturally occurring process of saliva development for the following stages of infancy:
After 3 months, 6 months, 9 months
15 months and 24 months
After 3 months
Infants begin to produce greater amounts of saliva. If lying flat, face up or reclining; gravity will enable the saliva to follow its due course with the swallow. They may drool when:
- a baby initiates head lifting or turning, or when gravity works against the normal path, drooling may occur.
Infants control their saliva lying face down, on their backs and in supported sitting positions. They may drool when:
- Teething or using their hands for reaching or using objects.
- Beginning to attempt tasks requiring concentration or finer use of their fingers or hands (due to a reduction in mouth control).
- Before, after or during a meal; they produce more saliva .
Even during larger movements such as rolling, sitting or belly-crawling; drooling is absent. The child will not generally drool around mealtimes.They may drool when:
- Cutting a tooth.
- Eating certain foods.
Drooling is no longer present when continuously attempting newly acquired advanced movements such as walking. They may drool when:
- Concentrating on advanced fine finger movements like self-feeding, random-play or undressing.
Children have developed the structure and control of their nerves and muscles to engage in the fine finger movements mentioned above, manipulating small objects and forming two-word speech combinations all without drooling.