Salivary glands produce saliva. Saliva performs many functions like lubricating the mouth, protecting the teeth from bacteria and helps in digesting the food we eat. There are three pairs of major salivary glands and hundreds of minor singular glands located inside the mouth and the throat. The pairs of major salivary glands are parotid glands situated inside the cheek, submandibular gland situated at the floor of the mouth and sublingual glands situated under the tongue. The saliva produced by salivary glands is emptied into the mouth through small ducts which open inside the mouth. If salivary glands and salivary ducts are affected by any problems symptoms like pain, fever, swelling, dry mouth etc are exhibited.
Salivary gland ducts may be blocked and functions of salivary glands may be disrupted due to many reasons. Some of them are detailed below.
1) Sialoliths or salivary stones: When salivary ducts are blocked, saliva cannot exit from it and gets accumulated inside the gland. This accumulated saliva crystallizes and forms stones causing the blockage to the flow of saliva causing pain and swelling. The pain progressively increases. If the blockage caused by salivary stones is not cleared there is every possibility of getting infected.
2) Sialadenitis or salivary gland infection: Parotid gland commonly gets infected with bacteria when its opening to the mouth is blocked. It creates a lump in the gland which will be painful and pus from the gland drains into the mouth. This infection is common among older people. This infection is also common in babies during the first few weeks of birth.
3) Infections: Viral illness like mumps or flu can cause infections to the salivary glands resulting in swelling. Bacterial infections also cause one sided salivary gland swelling. Bacterial infections usually affect parotid gland. Dehydration and malnutrition increases the risk of bacterial infection.
4) Cysts: Blockage of saliva due to infection, salivary stones and tumors can lead to the formation of cysts. Some babies are born with cysts in the parotid gland as a congenital disorder.
5) Tumors: Benign and malignant tumors that grow in the slivery glands can cause problems to the salivary glands and its ducts. Pleomorphic adenomas and Warthin’s tumor are two common tumors that affect the parotid glands.
6) Sjogren’s syndrome: This is a disease in which the cells of immune system of a person attack moisture producing glands including salivary glands.
Treatment options to the salivary gland problems are based on their causes. Blockage due to the stones is removed by manually removing the stones. Increased production of saliva is obtained by using sour candies which will help to clear the blocking stones in the ducts. Application of warm compresses helps the removal of stones. Problems caused by bacterial infection are treated by antibiotics. Medications are available for dry mouth also. For removing tumors and cysts surgical procedure has to be followed.
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