What are You Drooling For?

Drool happens to the best of us. You may notice that you salivate a little extra during mealtimes, or make extra spit while brushing your teeth. No one wants to admit that they wake up with a pile of drool on their pillow every morning. Humans may not have it as bad as dogs, but we do make a significant amount of saliva. Babies have little control over this, and must be cleaned up on a regular basis. Many parents just leave a bib on them. All of this drool is not without purpose. Your saliva plays a part in some necessary bodily functions and indicates that your body is responding properly to stimuli.


You may be aware that you drool on a daily basis but may not realize how much. The average person makes anywhere from one to one and a half liters of saliva each day. This is produced by three glands. These are the submandibular, parotid, and sublingual glands. All of that drool is not just water. It is a combination of water, electrolytes, lipids, and protein. The majority of your saliva is, however, water. Water makes up about 99.5 percent of the mixture. Main purposes of saliva are digestion, cleaning teeth, and chewing food.


When it comes to food, your body pretty much takes over. Hunger is a pretty raw physical instinct. It lets us know when it is time to nourish our bodies. This is an important part of survival. When you eat, there are many things that happen. The process starts with your senses. When you see or smell food, your salivary glands may start to react immediately. When food is on the way, your body prepares to break it down with saliva. This is a significant part of the digestive process. Between the enzymes in your saliva, and your teeth, food is closer to becoming fuel by the time it reaches your stomach. Your brain gets the signal that food is on the way and releases norepinephrine and acetylcholine. These chemicals help to create more saliva for mealtime.


Babies have the same reflex reaction when food is on the way, however, they seem to be drooling all of the time. During the first two years of life, babies do not have complete control over their swallowing mechanism. The muscles of the mouth are also difficult for babies to control. This makes sense when you think about the different stages of food that babies go through before they begin to eat more adult textures. Babies may also drool excessively when they are teething. The pain from this process triggers more saliva than usual. Babies also explore their surroundings with their mouths.

Chewing on random objects throughout the day can also cause babies to make extra drool. The amount is usually too much for them to swallow, so it ends up spilling over.


Most people have a favorite sleeping position. Different positions seem to be more prone to leaking saliva. When you sleep on your side, your saliva may not head to the back of the throat as it does when you are awake. When saliva hits the back of the throat it triggers the response to swallow. Side sleepers are more likely to wake up with a drool spot on the pillow. Some people sleep with their mouth open, further initiating the drooling process.


There are some health conditions that can also contribute to excess saliva production. Pregnant women often notice extra saliva. This may also be accompanied by morning sickness and vomiting. Acid reflux also plays a part the release of extra saliva. Illnesses also play a part in how your body acts in this department. Tonsillitis, sinus issues, and allergies can all contribute to drooling. The ever embarrassing drool that results from the dentist is always fun, as well. The manipulation of the mouth for cleaning and cavity repair both trigger saliva productions. The dentist is, thankfully, prepared for this with the sucking straw tool. If you must be numbed for a procedure, expect to have no control over your drooling until you regain feeling in your mouth or lips.

Drooling is a part of life. Saliva helps your body to accomplish necessary actions for survival. Without the enzymes in saliva, your food would not be ready for digestion. Your stomach would then have to work extra hard to break everything down. Your body would probably not get the nutrients it needs. Babies are still developing. It takes them up to two years to get control over their swallowing muscles. Teething can also be an issue. You may just want to put a towel on your pillow if you are a side sleeper. The drool just heads the wrong direction when you sleep this way. Pregnant women also may have to deal with the issue until their pregnancy moves along. Drool may be embarrassing at times, yet it serves an important purpose.

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