Drooling Banjos: My Experience with Drooling
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Profile photo of Peter Whyte

I drool, and at the worst times, like when I am playing the guitar and attempting to sing the lyric, or when I am in close quarters, talking to someone.

The moment I pick up my guitar (or get on my soapbox) I start to process more saliva than when I am not engaged in these activities. The fear of spitting on someone traumatizes me in seconds, and it prevents me from getting the very first words of a song out of my mouth.

I used to sit around after a big dinner and play and sing for my dinner guests. No more, and frankly, I miss that more than anything else Parkinson’s disease has taken from me.  My dinner guests miss it too, or so I am told. MIA are the requests, “Play a James Taylor song,” or “play a Beatles song,” the one that quenched my ego most, “play one of your songs.”

Solutions differ because hyper-salivation has so many different causes

Of course, I am in search of a solution to this problem. So far, this is what I learned and synthesized down to my level of understanding for me. Saliva is produced by several salivary glands in the mouth and throat. Saliva begins the digestion process, even before food hits the stomach. The emission of saliva is a signal to the stomach to get ready to react (chemically) to incoming food. Saliva adds moisture to food in the mouth making it easier to digest food once it hits the stomach. Saliva also aids in the swallowing process.

Deep brain stimulation (DBS) in the mix

Hyper-salivation is very common in Parkinson’s patients and not only affects swallowing but it makes clear speech more difficult. I first noted my drooling problem when my DBS insertion was completed. My surgeon warned me that this might happen, and he was right.

As I sit here writing, concentrating on what I want to say, drool is finding its way out of the corner of my mouth. As the first drops escape and head for the floor, I become aware that I am about to drool, and manage to gain control of the rest of it, and swallow. Alas, I have residual saliva blotches on my shoes from the initial escapees.

I was told to suck on hard candy which would produce even more saliva but hasten the swallowing event trigger, to clear the excessive spit way. That lasts about 1 minute, when my shoes and carpet run the risk of another drool drop heading south. I’ll keep searching.

Surgery has helped others with serious hyper-salivation

There are surgical procedures one can undertake, but I don’t get the impression any of them are 100% guaranteed to work. And, of course there are still more medications, but I don’t want to add to my list of medication which now includes 12 x 245MG Rytary per day (I know), 6 x 25/100 carbidopa/levodopa 1x 8MG Neupro transdermal patch, 1 x 1MG Azilect, 2 x 250MG Levetiradet, some valium and hydrocodone that I will take about once or twice a month as pain management and sleep aids.

Last weekend I had a friend over to my music studio, and he asked what had happened to the top of one of the electric guitars. I explained that it was saliva that I forgot to wipe off after use. Fortunately, I had another guitar for him to play. It was “spit free.”

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