Do you know that your salivary glands make as much as a quart of saliva every day?
Your oral cavity has salivary glands that help to lubricate your mouth with saliva, help with swallowing protect your teeth against bacteria, and aid in the digestion of food.
There are 3 main parts of your salivary glands. These are:
- parotid glands on the insides of your cheeks
- submandibular glands on the floor of your mouth
- sublingual glands present under your tongue.
Moreover, there are a number of several hundred minor salivary glands throughout your mouth and throat.
Saliva drains into your mouth through small tubes called ducts.
However, when there is a problem with your salivary glands, you can have various symptoms.
In this article, we will discuss causes, symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment options for salivary glands disorders.
Salivary Glands Disorders
The salivary glands have the ability to produce saliva that keeps your mouth moist, helps protect your teeth from rapid decay, and helps you to digest food.
Moreover, they are relatively small and are present around your mouth, lips, and cheeks.
There are a number of diseases that can affect your salivary glands.
These can range from cancerous tumors to Sjogren’s syndrome. While some conditions go away with the use of antibiotics, other conditions require serious treatment, including surgery.
Let’s discuss the causes of salivary gland disorders in detail.
Causes of Salivary Glands Disorder
There are 3 paired salivary glands in your oral cavity. These are the parotid, submandibular and sublingual glands.
They are responsible for producing saliva, however, if they are blocked, is one of the most common sources of problems.
These blocked glands can lead to more painful symptoms.
Sialolithiasis and Sialadentis
On the other hand, Sialolithiasis occurs when you have stones made of calcium form in the salivary glands.
These stones can block the glands and that can either partially or completely block the flow of saliva.
On the other hand, sialadenitis is an infection involving a salivary gland.
Most of the time, it results from stones blocking the gland.
Staph or strep bacteria can cause it and older adults and children are more prone to getting this infection.
This is another common salivary gland disorder and occurs when the white blood cells in your bloodstream target the healthy cells of the salivary glands.
This condition affects women with autoimmune disorders like lupus.
Flue virus, mumps, echovirus, Coxsackie virus, or cytomegalovirus are some of the types of viruses that can affect your salivary glands.
Cancerous and Noncancerous Tumors
Tumors may develop in the glands as well, however, they are very rare. Noncancerous cells that can affect the parotid glands include pleomorphic adenomas and Warthi’s tumors.
However, benign pleomorphic adenomas can grow in the submandibular glands and the minor glands but is rare.
Symptoms of Salivary Glands Disorders
The symptoms of sialolithiasis are a painful lump under your tongue and pain that increases while you eat.
Sialadenitis symptoms are a lump in your cheek, pus that drains into your mouth, foul-smelling pus, and fever.
Moreover, cysts that grow in your salivary glands can cause yellow mucus, difficulty eating, speaking, and swallowing.
Viral infections like mumps can cause fever, muscles aches, joint pain, swelling on both sides of your face, and headache.
However, if you have diabetes or alcoholism, you may have swelling in the salivary glands.
Thus, if you notice a bad taste in your mouth, dry mouth, mouth pain, facial swelling, or trouble opening your mouth, then you should visit your doctor.
Diagnosis of Disorder
If you have the above symptoms, your doctor will recommend testing that is based on your medical history and a physical exam.
More importantly, such cases are obvious from the medical history and physical exam alone.
Your doctor may want to see the blockage to diagnose a salivary gland obstruction.
Moreover, they will take a Dental X-ray of the affected area to pinpoint the obstruction.
A head and neck surgeon can use these X-rays to administer anesthesia to numb the salivary gland opening and free any blockage.
If they need to target the salivary glands, an MRI or a CT scan can provide more in-depth images.
Additionally, a biopsy can remove salivary gland tissue to aid in diagnosis.
This is particularly crucial if your doctor suspects that you have an autoimmune disorder that affects your salivary glands.
Treatment of the salivary glands depends on the type of disease and how advanced it is.
For instance, if you have a mass in your salivary gland, your doctor may recommend getting surgery to remove the mass or gland itself.
However, if the mass is cancerous, then you may need radiation treatment to kill the cancerous cells.
It is important to keep in mind that this treatment will not start until your body heals, and is typically 4 to 6 weeks after surgery.
Radiation treatment can cause dry mouth which can be uncomfortable and affect your digestion.
Thus, your doctor will recommend drinking more fluids and avoiding foods high in sodium or salt.
However, if the salivary gland is not cancerous, you may not require radiation therapy.
A mass that is not causing any symptoms can be treated with conservative measures.
This includes special mouthwashes to relieve symptoms like dry mouth.
Moreover, you can also keep your mouth moist with a mixture of 1/2 teaspoon of salt in 1 cup of warm water.
In other cases, antibiotics can also help treat bacterial infections.
Taking good care of your teeth is also a successful way to treat salivary glands,
Brushing and flossing your teeth twice a day or after a meal can help prevent salivary gland disorder and tooth decay.
Factors that can increase your chances of having salivary gland disorders are as follows:
dehydration, malnutrition, eating disorders, chronic illnesses, cancer, antihistamines, diuretics, air blowing occupations can lead to Sialadenitis.
Radiation exposure and smoking can increase your chances of developing pleomorphic adenomas.
Sjogren’s syndrome, exposure to radiation, and smoking can lead to salivary glands cancer.
People who are obese, pregnant, breastfeeding, malnourished, have kidney failure or have thyroid disorders are more likely to develop Sialadenoisi.
Certain complications can result from salivary glands disorder. These are as follows:
Mumps: Mumps can cause infection of the testicles in males that can, later on, cause problems with fertility.
Sometimes the infection of mumps can also spread to other parts of the body causing other issues.
Sjogren’s Syndrome: There are many complications associated with this one.
Such as infections and tumors of the salivary gland. Nerve-related problems, miscarriage, and non-Hodgkins lymphoma are other complications.
Stones: Stones may form in the future that can block the gland and result in an infection or damage.
Tumors: Having to work on the parotid gland involves one of the main nerves of your face.
If these nerves are damaged, one side of the face can have some weakness afterward.
If any damage, however, occurs to the salivary gland, it may be a long-term problem and can result in a dry mouth, and problems associated with the teeth.
There is no proper way to prevent salivary gland infection, however,r if you want to reduce the risk of developing an infection, the best option is to drink plenty of fluids and practice good oral and dental hygiene.
This may include brushing your teeth twice a day or after a meal and flossing your teeth once a day.
Moreover, using mouthwashes can help prevent infection in your mouth that may otherwise aid the bacteria in your oral cavity.
This bacteria mixes with the acid in your mouth and can cause issues like plaque, cavities, and tooth decay.
Thus, by preventing the development of bacteria, you can reduce your chances of having salivary glands disorder.
Major Salivary glands are present in your oral cavity that aids in digestion keeps your mouth moist, and produce saliva. Saliva is a watery liquid that provides lubrication for chewing and swallowing flood and also aids in digestion. Moreover, it is 98% water and 2% electrolytes, mucus, white blood cells, etc.
However, certain conditions can cause disorders of your salivary glands. These can be infections, Sjogren’s syndrome, blockage to your glands, etc. It is important to follow good dental and oral hygiene to prevent such blockage. Brushing twice a day and using floss can help prevent complications. However, if you have any specific condition, then you should visit your doctor and get the specific treatment so that you can avoid other complications. They can form gland tumor, salivary gland stones if you do not get treatment. Thus, it is important to get early treatment for salivary gland tumors.