Each person has six major and many minor salivary glands which produce saliva to help lubricate the mouth and the throat. The major salivary glands are the parotid glands (located in your cheek), the submandibular glands (located beneath your jaw), and the sublingual glands (located beneath your tongue). Each person has two of these glands, one on each side of the body.
When a salivary gland becomes inflamed, it enlarges and becomes painful. This can happen because of dehydration, bacterial infection, or even salivary stones. Often times, hydration, antibiotics, and steroids are all that is needed to resolve salivary gland inflammation. The salivary glands produce stones similar to your kidneys, and when these salivary stones form in the ducts which drain the glands, the treatment of choice is to have the stone removed.
Removing the stone can sometimes be performed in the office under local anesthesia, or through salivary endoscopy where small telescopes are used to navigate the ducts and remove the stones. Occasionally, the entire gland must be removed through surgery.
Salivary glands can also have abnormal growth of cells called neoplasms, which can be either benign or malignant. These growths occur most frequently in the parotid gland, and 75-80% of these growths are benign. When a salivary neoplasm occurs in other locations, the risk of malignancy is higher. With a few exceptions, the recommended management of salivary gland neoplasms is surgical excision. Minimally invasive parotidectomy techniques allow removal of parotid tumors with no visible scarring on the face or neck.