Skip to content

    Oral Care

    Select An Article

    Salivary Gland Problems

    Font Size
    A
    A
    A

    Your salivary glands make as much as a quart of saliva each day. Saliva is important to lubricate your mouth, help with swallowing, protect your teeth against bacteria, and aid in the digestion of food. The three major pairs of salivary glands are:

    • parotid glands on the insides of the cheeks
    • submandibular glands at the floor of the mouth
    • sublingual glands under the tongue

    There are also several hundred minor salivary glands throughout the mouth and throat. Saliva drains into the mouth through small tubes called ducts.

    Recommended Related to Oral Health

    When Should I Take My Child to the Dentist?

    Q. How old should my child be before I make his first dental appointment? A. You should take him in by the time he celebrates his first birthday. First visits are mostly about getting kids used to the dentist's chair and educating parents about how to care for baby's teeth. If your child has transitioned from the bottle to cup and doesn't snack or drink in the middle of the night, you get a one-year pass, until age 2. That's when the standard every-six-month dental visit recommendation...

    Read the When Should I Take My Child to the Dentist? article > >

    When there is a problem with the salivary glands or ducts, you may have symptoms such as salivary gland swelling, dry mouth, pain, fever, and foul-tasting drainage into the mouth.

    Causes of Salivary Gland Problems

    Many different problems can interfere with the function of the salivary glands or block the ducts so they can't drain saliva. The following are some of the more common salivary gland problems:

    Salivary stones, or sialoliths. The most common cause of swollen salivary glands, salivary stones are buildups of crystallized saliva deposits. Sometimes salivary stones can block the flow of saliva. When saliva can't exit through the ducts, it backs up into the gland, causing pain and swelling. Pain is usually off and on, is felt in one gland, and gets progressively worse. Unless the blockage is cleared, the gland is likely to become infected.

    Salivary gland infection, or sialadenitis. Bacterial infection of the salivary gland, most commonly the parotid gland, may result when the duct into the mouth is blocked. Sialadenitis creates a painful lump in the gland, and foul-tasting pus drains into the mouth.

    Sialadenitis is more common in older adults with salivary stones, but it can also happen in babies during the first few weeks after birth. If not treated, salivary gland infections can cause severe pain, high fevers, and abscess (pus collection).

    Infections. Viral infections such as mumps, flu, and others can cause swelling of the salivary glands. Swelling happens in parotid glands on both sides of the face, giving the appearance of "chipmunk cheeks."

    Salivary gland swelling is commonly associated with mumps, happening in about 30% to 40% of mumps infections. It usually begins approximately 48 hours after the start of other symptoms such as fever and headache.

    Next Article:

    How Do I Measure Up? Get the Facts Fast!

    Number of Days Per Week I Floss

    Get the latest Oral Health newsletter delivered to your inbox!


    or
    Answer:
    Never
    (0)
    Good
    (1-3)
    Better
    (4-6)
    Best
    (7)

    You are currently

    Only 18.5% of Americans never floss. You are missing out on a simple way to make a big difference in the health of your mouth. Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Floss removes food trapped between the teeth and removes the film of bacteria that forms there before it turns to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Try flossing just one tooth to get started.

    You are one of 31% of Americans who don't floss daily. You are missing out on a simple way to make a big difference in the health of your mouth. Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces. Flossing removes up to 80% of the film that hardens to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Aim for 3 more days!

    You are one of 31% of Americans who don't floss daily, but you're well on your way to making a positive impact on your teeth and gums. Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces. Flossing removes up to 80% of the film that hardens to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Aim for all 7 days!

    Only 50.5% of Americans floss daily, and good for you that you are one of them! Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces. Flossing removes up to 80% of the film that hardens to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Congratulations on your good oral health habit!

    SOURCES:

    American Dental Association, Healthy People 2010

    This tool is intended only for adults 18 and older.

    Start Over

    Step:  of 

    Today on WebMD

    close up of woman sticking out tongue
    Sores, discoloration, bumps and more.
    toothbrushes
    10 secrets to a brighter smile.
     
    Veneer smile
    Before and after.
    Woman checking her bite in mirror
    Why dental care is important.
     

    Woman dissatisfied with granola bar
    Slideshow
    woman with jaw pain
    Quiz
     
    eroded front teeth
    Slideshow
    brushing teeth
    Video
     

    Variety shades of tea
    Slideshow
    mouth and dental instruments
    Article
     
    Closeup of a happy young guy brushing his teeth
    Tool
    womans smile
    Video