Why does facial palsy cause problems with eating and drinking?
Facial palsy can cause weakness of the lips which can make it difficult to seal your lips around cups and cutlery resulting in leakage of food or fluid when eating and drinking. Eating and drinking can be messy which may make you reluctant to eat out or in the company of others.
Facial palsy may also cause weakness in the cheek muscles. This may cause food to collect in the weak side of your mouth. One of the functions of the cheek muscle is to keep the food in the centre of the mouth or between the teeth for chewing. A weak cheek may mean that chewing and preparing food for swallowing may be difficult. Food may pouch or collect in your cheek and be difficult for you to clear.
Weakness of the lips and cheek may also make brushing your teeth and spitting out difficult.
What can help with drinking and eating?
Kapi-cup – helping you drink without tipping your head back.It is often easier to drink from a thin lipped cup or glass, for example, a fine bone china cup or mug with a wide brim. Alternatively your therapist can provide you with a Kapi-Cup. This is a thin, plastic mug, with the nose cut out so that you can drink without tipping your head back.
If you are having difficulty with chewing and preparing food then the following advice may help:
- Avoid hard, chewy foods as these can be difficult to prepare and choose a soft easy chew diet (such as pasta dishes, fish, well cooked meats and vegetables).
- Try smaller mouthfuls as these are easier to control and less likely to spill from your mouth.
- If your mouth is dry then make sure your food is moist by adding extra butter, gravy or sauces.
- Brush your teeth after meals to ensure no food debris is left behind or trapped inside your cheek. You may need to use your finger to clear any food debris from your cheek. It is important to do this in order to avoid tooth decay.
Why can facial palsy cause drooling/dribbling?
Drooling usually occurs because the lips are weak and do not seal when your mouth is closed. This will become more noticeable when your head is forward and down, as gravity takes the flow of saliva to the front of your mouth which then leaks out through the weakest part of your lips.
What can help prevent drooling/dribbling?
- Try and remember to swallow more frequently to prevent saliva building up in your mouth.
- Sip water to help you remember to swallow more frequently.
- Lip strengthening exercises may help improve lip closure so ask for a referral to your local therapist who has experience in treating people with facial palsy.
- Avoid lowering your head or letting it drop forward.
- If you have severe cheek and lip weakness, you may find that taping your cheek will give you some support and comfort and may also help reduce the amount of drooling.
- If your problems are severe you may need to ask your GP for medication to help reduce the amount of saliva you make.
Last reviewed: 15-02-2021 || Next review due: 20-03-2023