Salivary Gland: Function, Infections, Symptoms & Treatments: Information, Research, Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

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Salivary Gland infections


Their Function

Salivary glands empty saliva into the mouth through ducts that open at various locations in the mouth.

Salivary glands that malfunction or swell can decrease saliva production. Saliva aids in breaking down food as part of the digestive process. Decreased saliva causes dry mouth and tooth decay.


Where are they located

  • The two largest glands are located in each cheek over the jaw in front of the ears.
  • Two smaller glands are found at the back of the mouth on both sides of the jaw.
  • Two glands are located under the floor of the mouth.


Salivary Gland Malfunctions:

Salivary gland infections are quite common. Their cause can be either:

  • viral (mumps), or
  • bacterial - usually a result of an obstruction, such as salivary duct stones or poor oral hygiene. They are often seen in people who are dehydrated and hospitalized.


  • Dry mouth
  • Bad taste
  • Decreased ability to open the mouth
  • Mouth or facial pain, especially when eating
  • Swelling of the face, particularly in front of the ears, below the jaw, or on the floor of the mouth
  • Fever
  • Redness over the side of the face or the upper neck

Common Treatments:

  • Often, the condition will resolve itself provided that a protocol of good oral hygiene is implemented:
    • Thorough tooth brushing and flossing at least twice a day
    • Frequent warm salt water rinses (1/2 teaspoon of salt in one cup of water)
    • Drink lots of water and use sugar-free lemon drops to increase the flow of saliva and reduce swelling.
    • Massaging the gland with heat may help.
    • Smokers are advised to stop smoking as it helps in recovery.
  • In cases where the patient is suffering from fever or serious BACTERIAL infections antibiotics may be prescribed (antibiotics are not effective against viral infections)
  • If there is an abscess, surgical drainage or aspiration may be done.

Oral Cancer

Certain diseases and disorders can cause salivary glands malfunctions:

  • Parkinson's disease
  • Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection
  • Sjögren's syndrome
  • Depression
  • Chronic pain.

Drugs that decrease saliva production include:

  • Antidepressants
  • Antipsychotics
  • Antihistamines
  • Sedatives
  • Methyldopa
  • Diuretics
  • Cancer Treatment: Chemotherapy or head and neck radiation for the treatment of cancer often result in salivary gland malfunction. Dry mouth due to high doses of radiation is usually permanent. Dry mouth due to chemotherapy is usually temporary.

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