Depending on your child’s age, drooling can be something that he or she is a temporary side effect and byproduct of teething. If your child has already begun teething and isn’t able to stop from drooling, there are a few things you can do to help him or her exercise the oral muscles and gain control of this area. While your child’s oral function may be underdeveloped, you can still use exercises to enhance and teach oral muscle function.
A Few Practical Tips
- Take away the pacifier, or at least reduce the time during which your child is using it. Preferably only allow your child to use it before bed to help put him or her to sleep. Pacifiers may have a poor effect on children’s speech and oral control. However, you do not have to do away with pacifiers altogether; only use it when absolutely necessary to calm down an aggravated child. When you use a pacifier, pair it with a blanket or pillow so it will be easier to wean them off of it later.
- Stimulate your child’s oral muscles with an electric toothbrush. This is a popular technique to engage children with oral sensations. Start slow by touching it to the child’s lips and cheeks when it is turned off. Then move to the child’s tongue, gums and teeth. *Note: Do not do this when a child is teething, he or she will most likely not respond well to this.
- Upgrade from the bottle to a sippy cup. Bottles have the same ill effects as a pacifier if used for too long. Each step to a new cup further promotes different muscles used in the mouth.
- After the sippy cup move on to using a straw. Most children who use straws often solve their drooling issue when this skill is mastered.
Activities to Strengthen the Oral Muscles
Allow your child to learn how to suck, chew and bite on different textures. The straw and sippy cup can aid in teaching your child how to suck. See who can blow the most bubbles, or blow a feather across the table. Teaching him or her to use the mouth in different ways strengthens different oral muscle groups. Encourage playing with food by licking yogurt or applesauce from their lips or off of plates. Picking up cheerios with their mouth and other food play will help them shape their tongue and lips to not only keep the drool in their mouth, but articulate words as well. When they’ve graduated to different foods, give them fruit leather, dried fruit, or breakfast bars to chew on. This will help their oral muscles exercise and grow.
If these techniques have little or no effect on your child’s drooling problem, there may be other variables causing it. If your child is a mouth breather, has restless sleep or chronic sinus congestion, he or she could be suffering from allergies to food or even respiratory problems.
The best decision when you notice something seems wrong is to contact your speech pathologist to perform an assessment. It is better to check and be wrong, than let something continue to fester, undiagnosed.