Don’t Ignore the Health of Your Salivary Glands

Saliva Flow Gone Wrong

The presence of salivary glands in the mouth is for a purpose. The glands function by pouring saliva into the oral cavity through several openings or ducts. Saliva keeps the mouth moist or hydrated to ward off infection and so that salivary enzymes can break down the food so that it becomes digestible. There are 3 main sets of glands on both sides of the face. The largest glands located in the cheeks are the parotid glands. Submandibular glands are on the back side of the mouth and sublingual glands, under the floor of the mouth.

When salivary ducts get blocked for whatever reason, it can result to infection of the ducts and the gland itself. Pain, discomfort or swelling can be felt on that side of the face where the blockage occurs. Bacterial infections are common. The parotid gland can be infected by a virus that causes mumps to manifest.

Though common, salivary gland infections shouldn’t be ignored for they can lead to stone formation, in rare cases, to cancer. If saliva flow decreases or stops, saliva trapped in the ducts can solidify and become stones. If left untreated, the minor salivary glands (and they are many) and even one of the major glands whose saliva content cannot be released can crystallized and hardened.


The symptoms you will notice are dry mouth, pain on the cheeks and jaw skins, foul tasting drainage in the mouth, swelling of the glands and fever. Swelling of a part of the face indicates crystallization in progress. Fever is a sign now of ongoing infection. The pain and swelling may come and go, but you need immediate treatment to stop the gland infection. Most will resolve on their own, some will come back.

Precautions should be considered to prevent infection which can be due to poor oral hygiene and dehydration. There are good and bad mouth bacteria, and when the condition is ripe like low immunity or a sore throat, there can be a flare up of bad bacteria. So one must keep the mouth always fully hydrated by drinking plenty of water (8 to 10 glasses) especially when one is working in environments that are exceedingly warm or cold. It’s not a natural urge but a disciplined lifestyle. Also, alternating warm and cold water in the mouth can loosen blockages because the glands get stimulation.

Eat lemons and oranges, sour foods that stimulate saliva flow. Eat healthy and chew more, especially fruits and vegetables that can open up the gland ducts. When there is pain and swelling, massages and hot compresses can alleviate them. Above all, maintain proper oral hygiene. See your dentist for advice and treatment.

Not Ignoring Salivary Gland Health

Assessment of salivary gland health is part of your oral examination in Downtown Seattle dentistry. See us soon so we can prevent future problems before they can be problematic.