A doctor explains what causes excessive saliva buildup when you awaken and how to prevent this.

Excessive saliva when awakening: causes, mechanism behind causes? On
one hand it could be excessive production, but also insufficient swallowing.

“Excessive saliva in the morning with chronic throat clearing are very common complaints,” says Dr. Stacey Silvers, MD, of Madison ENT & Facial Plastic Surgery in NYC, who is board certified in otolaryngology. I consulted with her for this article.

“Without other associated symptoms of allergy (runny nose, sneezing, congestion and/or itchy eyes), allergies may not be the cause,” says Dr. Silvers.  “These are common symptoms of silent reflux.”

What is silent reflux and how does it cause saliva buildup in the morning when awakening?

“Silent reflux does not present with classic ‘heartburn’ and indigestion,” continues Dr. Silvers.   “Stress is a large contributing factor as well as poor diet and late night eating.  Eating late at night, one has a belly full of food and excess stomach acid which goes up in the throat while laying down.

“Stress increases stomach acid and some of that excess acid will reflux up.  The mucous and saliva will drip in the back of the nose and throat to coat the throat and protect the throat from acid that can otherwise burn and cause ulcers.

“The mucous is thick and the need to clear it off the vocal cords can be a fairly constant or an intermittent symptom during the day or upon awaking.”

How to Help Prevent Excess Saliva in the Morning

Dr. Silvers explains, “Avoid late night eating and cut down on highly acidic foods; caffeine, tomatoes, onions, fried foods, nicotine, chocolate and alcohol.  Elevate the head of the bed to keep acid down in the stomach by gravity alone.

“A trial of an over the counter reflux medication may help.  If it is not helping or after stopping the medication the symptoms return, consult your doctor.

“Other common silent reflux symptoms include: dry cough, lump in the throat, throat pain, hoarseness and trouble swallowing.”

stacey silvers, MD

An NYC expert in ear, nose and throat care, Dr. Silvers has been named among America’s Top Physicians and Surgeons in facial plastic surgery and otolaryngology from 2003-2012.