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What are salivary gland problems?

Salivary glands produce saliva and release it into the mouth. There are three major salivary glands among a number of minor glands in the mouth. They are:

  • Parotid gland – It is located in the cheek in front of the ear. The duct ends near the upper molar tooth.
  • Submandibular glands – These glands are placed below the lower jaw, with their ducts emptying behind the lower front teeth.
  • Sublingual gland – It is located below the tongue and releases saliva onto the floor of the mouth.

When these glands are damaged or do not produce enough saliva, it results in salivary gland problems. There may be excessive, inadequate or complete lack of salivary production.

What are its main signs and symptoms?

Salivary gland problems irritate the glands and result in the following symptoms:

What are the main causes?

Salivary gland problems may be due to:

  • Sialolithiasis – Calcium stones are formed, which block the duct and cause inflammation.
  • Sialadenitis – Bacterial infection of the gland which blocks the duct.
  • Viruses like flu virus, coxsackie virus, mumps, echovirus and cytomegalovirus also affect the glands.
  • Sjogren’s syndrome.
  • Cancerous and non-cancerous tumours of any of the three glands.

How is it diagnosed and treated?

Your doctor will examine your mouth thoroughly and take an X-ray to detect any blockages of the gland duct. MRI and CT scan may be needed for detailed information. An oral surgeon may then anaesthetise the affected area and remove blockage surgically from the salivary duct. The doctor may conduct a biopsy of the affected gland to aid in the diagnosis in cases of autoimmune disease.

If the problem is due to any systemic disease, then it is treated first. Non-cancerous tumours are surgically removed. Cancerous tumours need radiation therapy after their surgical removal.

  1. Medicines for Salivary Gland Problems

References

  1. Health Harvard Publishing. Harvard Medical School [Internet]. Salivary Gland Disorders. Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts.
  2. Kevin F. Wilson et al. Salivary Gland Disorders. American Academy of Family Physicians.
  3. National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research [internet]: US Department of Health and Human Services; Saliva & Salivary Gland Disorders.
  4. MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia: US National Library of Medicine; Salivary Gland Disorders
  5. National Center for Advancing and Translational Sciences. Sialadenitis. Genetic and Rare Diseases Information Center
  6. Center for Disease Control and Prevention [internet], Atlanta (GA): US Department of Health and Human Services; Mumps
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