We have 3 sets of major salivary glands, the parotid gland, the submandibular or submaxillary glands, and the sublingual glands. In addition to these glands there are thousands of other small microscopic glands that line the mucous membranes of the mouth and throat. The major salivary glands each have a sizable duct or channel that takes the saliva being produced into the mouth. Salivary production is highest when eating swallowing and speaking. Blockage of these ducts can cause swelling of the gland, as the gland will continue to produce saliva now with nowhere to go. Swelling of the salivary glands is unsightly and became become painful. Swelling that remains for several hours or couple of days may get infected and become very painful or cause a serious deep seated infection.
Risk factors for salivary gland infection include dehydration, old age, certain medications that may dry the mouth, radiation to the thyroid gland previously, and sometimes bad luck. I have seen to grinding, cold sores, or ulcers in the mouth also cause salivary gland blockage. Sometimes stones can form in the salivary duct which can obstruct salivary flow. Salivary tumors may also block the duct as their first symptom.
The first thing to do the salivary gland swells is to massage the gland. You should also stay hydrated and try to suck on a sugar-free candy or use chewing gum to keep saliva flowing. Often times mild obstructions can be cleared and the gland swelling may go down quickly. Many times gland swelling will not go down quickly and will develop into an infection in a few days. Patients who get repeated swelling of the gland or infections should be checked out by their doctor or an ENT. Many of these patients need antibiotics. Other testing may include CT scanning or salivary endoscopy.
Sometimes mild obstructions can be treated in the office. Often times we take patients to the operating room for salivary endoscopy to retrieve stones and debris from the duct and dilate the ducts so they do not become blocked. If pain, redness and tenderness are developing it is probably an infection started and you should be seen pretty quickly to get treatment going
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