A descriptive analysis of studies on behavioural treatment of drooling (1970-2005)

Dev Med Child Neurol. 2007 May;49(5):390-4. doi: 10.1111/j.1469-8749.2007.00390.x.


A descriptive analysis was conducted on studies on the behavioural treatment of drooling (published between 1970 and 2005). The 17 articles that met the inclusion criteria described 53 participants (mean age 14y 7mo, [SD 4y 9mo]; range 6-28y). Sex of 87% of the participants was reported: 28 male, 18 female. For 60% of the participants the degree of learning disability was reported, varying from severe/profound (n=24, 75%), moderate (n=4, 13%), to mild (n=2, 6%), while two participants (6%) had no learning disabilities. Forty-two participants (79%) were diagnosed with cerebral palsy. Behavioural procedures included instruction, positive and negative reinforcement, overcorrection and restitution, verbal and automatic cueing, and/or self-management. Effective behavioural procedures are reported in children with and without learning disability and/or motor impairment. Even participants with profound learning disability may benefit from behavioural intervention. However, the evidence base in terms of number of studies in this area is limited. Fifteen studies used a single participant design; two studies implemented an experimental-comparison group design. Some of these studies were poorly designed and methodological flaws were identified. Therefore, conclusions about efficacy of behaviour therapy for drooling and/or best practice cannot be drawn, although our analysis suggests that this approach is promising. However, future research on this topic is needed. After years of research focused on medical treatment, the option of behavioural treatment to reduce drooling should be reconsidered in relation to the medical management of this problem.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Behavior Therapy / methods*
  • Child
  • Clinical Trials as Topic
  • Humans
  • Intellectual Disability / therapy
  • Outcome and Process Assessment, Health Care
  • Sialorrhea / therapy*