Saliva plays a number of important roles, including lubricating your mouth, helping with swallowing, protecting your teeth against bacteria and aiding in the digestion of food. Your salivary glands produce roughly a quart of saliva each day.
There are three major pairs of salivary glands:
- Parotid glands (inside of the cheeks)
- Submandibular glands (floor of the mouth)
- Sublingual glands (under the tongue)
In addition, there are several hundred minor salivary glands throughout the mouth and throat that drain into the mouth through ducts.
When there is an issue with the salivary glands or the ducts, you may experience symptoms such as swelling, dry mouth, pain, fever, drainage and bad taste. There are many possible causes of salivary gland problems, several of which are listed below.
Salivary stones are the most common cause of swollen salivary glands. These stones are buildups of crystallized saliva deposit that can sometimes block the flow of saliva. When saliva can’t flow through the ducts, it backs up into the gland and causes intermittent, progressive pain and swelling. If the blockage is not cleared, this can lead to infection.
Bacterial infection can also result when the ducts become blocked. The parotid gland is most likely to be affected by bacterial infection, which can create a painful lump and cause foul-tasting pus to drain into the mouth. Bacterial infection of the salivary gland, also called sialadenitis, is most common in older adults who experience salivary stones, but can also happen in infants shortly after birth. These infections can cause pain, high fever and abscesses.
Viral infections like the flu or the mumps can cause swelling in salivary glands on both sides of the face, resulting in “chipmunk cheeks.” This type of swelling is often associated with the mumps, presenting in about 30-40 percent of cases within 48 hours of the onset of other symptoms.
Cysts can occur in the salivary glands if the flow of saliva is blocked by injury, infection, tumor or salivary stones. If there is an issue with development of the ears, babies can be born with cysts in the parotid glands. Cysts can appear as blisters or as soft raised areas and may interfere with eating or speaking.
For more information or to seek treatment for a salivary gland problem, call the experts at
CENTA Medical Group today.