Salivary and mucous glands in the human mouth produce a clear liquid called saliva, which provides moisture for the inside of the mouth and aids in digestion. A variety of circumstances can cause these glands to produce too much saliva in some people. This condition can be related to taking certain medicines, having specific medical conditions or as a result of ingesting certain poisons.
The average person produces up to 2 quarts (1.9 liters) of saliva a day. Saliva is about 98 percent water, and it is typically swallowed continually as produced as an involuntary reaction. Too much saliva can be the result of the glands that produce it becoming over active or from an individual swallowing less.
Reduced swallowing can be caused by a number of factors. Medical conditions that typically accompany reduced swallowing include sinusitis, either temporary or chronic; some allergies; and enlargement of the adenoids. Anything that causes sensitivity in the tongue or mouth also can cause an individual to swallow less often and sense that they have too much saliva. Several chronic medical conditions have reduced swallowing as a symptom as well including strokes, multiple sclerosis, autism and Down syndrome.
A variety of conditions — some occurring naturally, others involving a precipitating event outside the body — can cause the salivary glands to produce too much saliva. Naturally occurring causes include any of a number of mouth infections, teething and Bell’s palsy. A condition known as GERD, which stands for gastroesophageal reflux disease, can cause the esophagus to become inflamed producing discomfort and saliva in excess.
Regarding conditions that require some precipitating event, pregnant women often produce saliva in excess. Sexually transmitted diseases such as syphilis can result in too much saliva. Rabies can be a cause as well, producing the apparent foaming at the mouth that many associate with it. A disease such as tuberculosis can be a cause. Non-medical conditions such as ingesting arsenic or mercury or having new or ill-fitting dentures can result in the body producing too much saliva, too.
Excess saliva is often a temporary condition. A doctor’s help should be sought in obvious cases such as suspected poisoning, rabies or other undiagnosed diseases. If a doctor’s visit appears warranted, experts recommend, if possible, that the patient try to determine if the excess is being produced by the glands or a result of reduced swallowing.