Salivary Gland Disorders

Salivary glands produce saliva which keeps mouth moist, helps protect teeth from rapid decay, and helps in digestion of food. The salivary glands are relatively small, and they’re present around the inner linings of mouth, lips, and cheeks. Various kinds of diseases can affect salivary glands which range from cancerous tumors to Sjögren’s syndrome.


We have three paired salivary glands called the parotid, submandibular, and sublingual glands. They are responsible for producing saliva. Any kind of blockage in these salivary glands are the most common source of discomfort, and these blocked glands can cause painful symptoms.


As the name suggests lithos means stones. Sialolithiasis occurs when stones made of calcium gets deposited in the salivary glands. These stones can block the glands, and that can partially or completely stop the flow of saliva in the oral cavity.


Sialadenitis or also called sialodenitis is an infection of salivary gland which often results from stones made of calcium blocking the gland. Staphylococcus or streptococcus bacteria can cause this infection. Older adults and infants are more prone to this condition.

Sjögren’s syndrome

Sjögren’s syndrome is one of the common salivary gland disorders. It mainly occurs when white blood cells target healthy cells in moisture producing glands, such as the salivary, sweat, and oil glands. Sjogren’s syndrome is most commonly affects women with autoimmune disorders, such as lupus.


Viruses can affect the salivary glands as well, few viruses which are involved are stated as follows

Flu virus Mumps Coxsackie virus Echovirus Cytomegalovirus

Cancerous and non-cancerous tumors

Cancerous and non-cancerous tumors may develop in the salivary glands also. Cancerous tumors of the salivary glands are very rare and mainly seen in older age groups. Non-cancerous tumors affect the parotid glands includes pleomorphic adenomas and Warthin’s tumors. Benign pleomorphic adenomas can also grow in the submandibular gland and the minor salivary glands, but this is also rare in occurrence.


The symptoms of sialolithiasis includes the following

  • Growth of painful lump under the tongue
  • Excruciating pain when eating

Sialadenitis symptoms include the following

  • Development of a lump in cheek or under your chin
  • Pus drainage into mouth
  • Foul smelling pus
  • Fever

Cysts that grow in your salivary glands can cause following symptoms

  • Formation of yellow mucus that drains when the cyst bursts
  • Difficulty while eating
  • Difficulty in speaking
  • Difficulty while swallowing

Viral infections in the salivary glands, such as mumps, can cause following symptoms

  • Fever and malaise
  • Muscle ache
  • Joint pains
  • Generalized swelling on both sides of the face
  • Headache

The symptoms of Sjögren’s syndrome include the following

  • Common symptom is dry mouth
  • Dry eyes
  • Tooth cavities
  • Oral ulcers or sores in the mouth
  • Joint pain or swelling
  • Dry cough
  • Fatigue
  • Swelling in salivary glands


  • The doctor will recommend testing procedures based on the medical history and a physical examination.

  • Some cases can be diagnosed depending on the history and physical examination alone. In these cases, diagnostic tests may not be necessary.

  • Taking a dental X-ray of the affected area can help to specify the obstruction of the salivary gland due to stones. A head and neck surgeon use anesthesia to numb the salivary gland opening and free the blockage present in the gland.

  • MRI or CT scan can provide more in depth images of salivary glands.

  • Biopsy can be done to remove salivary gland tissue to aid in diagnosis, particularly if doctor suspects it as an autoimmune disorder that affects salivary glands.


  • Treatment for salivary gland disorders depends on the type of salivary gland disorder and how advanced it is.

  • For example, if you have an overgrowth in your salivary gland, your doctor may recommend surgery to remove the mass or the gland itself depending on the spread of the disease. If the mass is cancerous, you may need radiotherapy or chemotherapy treatments to kill the cancerous cells.

  • Radiation treatments to the neck can lead to dry mouth, which can be uncomfortable and affect your digestion process also. Your doctor may recommend consumption of more fluids and avoiding foods high in sodium which can worsen the condition.

  • If the salivary gland mass isn’t cancerous, radiation therapy may not be required. A mass that doesn’t cause symptoms may be treated with conservative measures only to prevent mass destruction. This might include special mouthwashes to relieve dry mouth.

  • In cases of dry mouth you can also keep your mouth moist by rinsing with a mixture of 1/2 teaspoon of salt in 1 cup of water. This home remedy can provide relief from dry mouth.

  • Antibiotics can treat most of the bacterial infections.

  • Maintaining good oral hygiene is vital for successful salivary gland treatment. Brushing and flossing teeth at least twice a day can help prevent salivary gland disorders and even tooth decay which can lead to discomfort.

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