Q&A: excessive drooling in preschooler

A reader writes:

"My son will be three in a few months and still drools excessively.  Does he have a problem and what can I do to help him?"

My opinion is that if the drooling isn't hurting his speech or causing any other problems in his life, then he doesn't have a problem per se. It's possible, however, that the drooling is caused by low muscle tone in his jaw. You could ask your pediatrician about having him evaluated by a speech therapist, who could tell you for sure. If his speech is harder to understand than the speech of other kids his age is, you should definitely get an evaluation just to make sure. (Ask your friends to tell you honestly if they have a hard time understanding him, since you probably understand everything he says.)

The exercises the speech therapists recommended for our three friends with low muscle tone were all simple things to exercise the lips, jaw, and face muscles. They recommended having the child drink through a straw as often as possible, blowing bubbles for a few minutes every day, blowing big dramatic kisses, blowing air through the lips to make them vibrate (like blowing a raspberry but without any tongue, or doing a horse impression), and putting something sticky above the child's lip (like cream cheese, jelly, peanut butter, frosting, etc.) and getting the child to lick it off.

I think most kids with low muscle tone probably work it out just through living anyway, since you don't see too many adults walking around drooling. But if it makes you feel better about things you could do all the things I listed above to exercise his muscles. (Sometimes low muscle tone can be related to other problems, but you would have noticed any other muscle weaknesses or issues by now.)

Good luck. Even if he does have low muscle tone, it's a relatively miild thing to deal with. The three kids I mentioned above are all 4+ years old now, and all three can be understood perfectly and are happy, healthy, active kids.