Our salivary glands produce around a quart of saliva every day. Besides lubricating the mouth, saliva helps protect the teeth from bacteria and assists with swallowing and digestion of the food as well. Here are the three most important pairs of salivary glands:

  • Sublingual glands – These glands are situated under the tongue
  • Submandibular glands –These glands are present at the mouth’s floor
  • Parotid glands – These glands are present inside the cheeks

Apart from these three glands, human mouth consists of hundreds of other salivary glands in the mouth and throat. These are small tubes known as ducts that help drain saliva into the mouth.

What are the causes of salivary gland issues?

There are a number of problems that can inhibit proper functioning of the salivary glands or block the small tubes (ducts), which prevents them from draining saliva. Below are some of the common salivary gland issues:

Sialadenitis or salivary gland infection

Sialadenitis or salivary gland infection is characterized by a bacterial infection in the salivary gland that commonly occurs in the parotid gland and might result from the blockage of the duct in the mouth. Saivary gland infection leads to a painful lump in the affected gland, and bad-tasting pus that drains into the mouth.

This infection is more likely to occur in older adults who have salivary stones, but it can affect newborn babies as well. If left untreated, sialadentitis can result in high fevers, severe pain, and pus collection (abscess).

Sialoliths or salivary stones

Salivary stones or swollen salivary glands are characterized by buildups of crystallized deposits of saliva. Sometimes the flow of saliva can be blocked by sialoliths, due to which saliva backs up into the gland, leading to swelling and pain. Usually, the pain comes and goes and can be felt in one gland. The gland might become infected if the blockage is not cleared.


Flu, mumps and other viral infections can result in salivary gland swelling. Swelling occurs in parotid glands on each side of the face. As a result, the patient’s cheeks appear as “chipmunk cheeks.”

Usually, salivary gland swelling is connected with mumps and occurs in around 30% to 40% people with mumps infections. The infection begins about 48 hours following the start of symptoms like headache and fever.

Other viral conditions that result in salivary gland swelling include the cytomegalovirus (CMV), Epstein-Barr virus (EBV), human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and the Coxsackievirus.

Generally, bacterial infections cause salivary gland swelling that occurs on one side of the face. Symptoms such as pain and fever also accompany the salivary gland swelling. Staph bacteria and bacteria found in the mouth are responsible for causing the infection. Malnutrition and dehydration can increase your chances of developing a bacterial infection.

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