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Salivary gland disorders

Definition

Salivary gland disorders are conditions that lead to swelling or pain in the saliva-producing tissues around the mouth.

Causes, incidence, and risk factors

The salivary glands produce saliva (spit), which moistens food to aid chewing and swallowing. Saliva contains enzymes that begin the digestion process. Saliva also cleans the mouth by washing away bacteria and food particles. Saliva keeps the mouth moist and helps to keep dentures or orthodontic appliances (such as retainers) in place.

There are three pairs of salivary glands:

  • The two largest are the parotid glands, one in each cheek in front of the ears
  • Two sublingual glands are under the floor of the mouth
  • Two submandibular glands are at the back of the mouth on both sides of the jaw

All of the salivary glands empty saliva into the mouth through ducts that open at various locations in the mouth.

The salivary glands may become inflamed (irritated) because of infection, tumors, or stones.

Related topics:

Symptoms

Signs and tests

Tests vary depending on the suspected disorder.

Treatment

The treatment varies depending on the specific disorder.

Expectations (prognosis)

Most salivary gland disorders respond well to treatment. See the specific disorders.

Complications

See the specific disorders.

Calling your health care provider

ALWAYS call your health care provider if you have symptoms of a salivary gland disorder.

Prevention

Most of the problems with salivary glands are not preventable. Adequate hydration, use of sialogogues (things that increase salivation -- for example, sour candy), and massage of the gland can increase salivary flow and help prevent infection.


Review Date: 3/3/2009
Reviewed By: James L. Demetroulakos, MD, FACS, Department of Otolaryngology, North Shore Medical Center, Salem, MA. Clinical Instructor in Otology and Laryngology, Harvard Medical School. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.
The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
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