Excess saliva with no apparent explanation can make some people think of ALS, but before you fear a death sentence, consider TMJ disorder.
There are two ways excess saliva can end up in your mouth:
• Excess production of saliva by the salivary glands (which can be caused by anxiety).
• Impaired swallowing, and thus, inability to efficiently clear saliva from the mouth.
Before you begin panicking over a neurological disease, ask yourself if you actually have a hard time swallowing such that it interferes with eating.
Plus, anxiety can make it seem like there’s a problem with the swallowing mechanism.
TMJ Disorder and Saliva
“TMJ disorders affect salivation in more than a few ways,” says Brijesh Chandwani, DMD, BDS, Diplomate, American Board of Orofacial Pain, with Connecticut & NY TMJ.
“Firstly, muscular pain commonly accompanies different types of TMJ disorders, and if the muscles of the jaw are overworking (clenching, spasming), they can influence the flow of the saliva,” explains Dr. Chandwani.
“The influence of the muscles over the salivary flow typically is not much, but in rare cases they can cause increased salivation (temporarily) or even reduced salivation.
“Excessive salivation is also a common complaint with use of mouth guards (the presence of something foreign in the body could stimulate more salivation).
“TMJ pain can also influence the parasympathetic nervous system, which in turn can increase the salivation also.
“Parasympathetic system is part of the autonomic nervous system which is responsible for the relaxation state of the individual but also controls salivary flow also.
“Lastly, TMJ pain could be due to an autoimmune response which involves influencing the salivation (usually autoimmune disorders cause dry mouth rather than increased salivation).”
If you are positive you don’t have temporomandibular joint disorder (e.g., normal dental exam, no TMJ symptoms), yet have a higher than usual amount of saliva in your mouth – remember, as mentioned prior:
This can also be caused by anxiety – though anxiety can also cause dry mouth.
Dr. Chandwani has 10+ years of experience focusing on TMJ disorders and sleep disorders.
Lorra Garrick has been covering medical, fitness and cybersecurity topics for many years, having written thousands of articles for print magazines and websites, including as a ghostwriter. She’s also a former ACE-certified personal trainer.