For a healthy, beautiful smile your mouth needs healthy teeth, gums and saliva flow. Saliva is an essential part of having a healthy smile. Saliva is a clear liquid comprised mostly of water, mixed with mucus, glycoproteins, electrolytes, enzymes and antibacterial compounds. It travels through tubes in the mouth called salivary ducts, from your salivary glands which are located at the bottom of the mouth, under the tongue, and inside each cheek.
Saliva lubricates your oral tissues so that you can swallow, it keeps dentures in place and protects your teeth and gums from bacteria. It makes your breath smell better and helps you with digestion. Unfortunately, these vital glands can become blocked and prevent proper saliva drainage. When this happens you can experience dry mouth, pain, fever, bad tasting secretions (pus), and swollen salivary glands. What are some potential problems that can arise in your salivary glands?
Salivary stones – sialoliths come from crystallized saliva deposits and cause the salivary glands to swell up. If the stones block saliva flow, it can back up saliva causing swelling and pain. You will need treatment to avoid infection in the swollen gland. You will feel intermittent pain that continues to worsen.
Salivary gland infection – sialadenitis is a bacterial infection in the salivary gland which blocks the duct into the mouth. You will feel a painful lump in the mouth which secretes pus (a bad tasting substance). Without treatment this will cause fevers, abscess and severe pain. Bacterial infections usually tend to arise in one salivary gland. These arise from the bacteria in the mouth, in addition to staph bacteria. Dehydration and malnourishment both increase your risk of contracting a bacterial infection.
Viral infections – If you come down with a viral infection, like the flu or mumps, they can also cause your salivary glands to swell. This usually happens in the glands inside both cheeks, leaving you with puffy cheeks.
Cysts and tumors – Other problems can arise with the salivary glands including cysts and tumors from stones, injuries and infections that block the gland flow. Cysts may show up as a soft raised area or blister and can interfere with eating and speaking. Tumors are usually painless and grow slowly.
Treating salivary gland conditions may require:
- Antibiotics stop the infection.
- Stone removal.
- Warm compresses.
- Sour candies (to increase saliva flow).
- Surgery may be required to remove tumors or large cysts.
If you have any questions or concerns about your salivary glands, you can schedule a visit with our dedicated dentist, Dr. James E. Gaff, by calling our dental team in Jacksonville, Florida at 904-641-2655 today!