Your salivary glands produce about a quart of saliva each day. Saliva is essential for lubricating your mouth, making swallowing easier, protecting your teeth against bacteria and aiding digestion. Typically, saliva drains into the mouth through small tubes called ducts.
There are three major pairs of salivary glands: the parotid glands inside the cheeks, submandibular glands at the floor of the mouth and sublingual glands under the tongue. You also have several hundred minor salivary glands throughout the mouth and throat.
Symptoms of a Salivary Gland Problem
Sometimes, there is a problem with the salivary glands or the ducts that saliva drains through. When this happens, you can experience symptoms such as:
- Dry mouth
- Foul-tasting drainage
Causes of Salivary Gland Problems
There are many potential problems that can interfere with salivary gland function. Some of the most common ones include…
The most common cause of swollen salivary glands is salivary stones. These are buildups of crystallized saliva deposits, which can block the flow of saliva. When this happens, it can cause pain and swelling. If the blockage is not cleared, the gland is likely to become infected.
Salivary Gland Infection
When a salivary duct becomes blocked, you can develop a bacterial infection. This happens most commonly in the parotid gland. Salivary gland infections create a painful lump in the gland and can cause pus to drain into the mouth.
Salivary gland infections are most common in older adults with salivary stones, but can also occur in babies within a few weeks of birth. Left untreated, salivary gland infections can cause pain, fever and abscesses.
Viral infections like the flu and the mumps can cause the salivary glands to swell. This usually affects the parotid glands on both sides of the face, causing “chipmunk cheeks.” This is especially common in mumps cases, occurring in about 30 to 40 percent of infections. This symptom begins about 48 hours after the onset of other symptoms like fever and headache.
Other viral infections that can cause salivary gland swelling include the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV), cytomegalovirus (CMV), Coxsackievirus and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).
For more information about salivary gland problems or to schedule an appointment, call Albany ENT & Allergy Services today.