Could I Have a Salivary Gland Infection?
Do you have a sore mouth or cheeks? Does your face feel puffy or swollen? If you have these symptoms or any of the symptoms listed in our dentist’s article below, you might have a salivary gland infection.
What Is a Salivary Gland?
A salivary gland is responsible for the saliva in our mouths. There are three main salivary gland pairings.
The two largest salivary glands are the parotid glands. These are located in the cheeks. They are above the jaw and in front of the ears.
The next pair of salivary glands are the submandibular glands. These two glands are located beneath each side of the lower jaw.
The final pair of salivary glands are the sublingual glands. These glands can be found underneath the front area of the floor of the mouth.
How Do They Get Infected?
Salivary gland infections are a common problem. They can be a problem by themselves and they can also be caused by other viral infections. For instance, the mumps can cause an infection in the salivary glands.
The most common causes of salivary gland infections are:
- Viral infections (such as mumps)
- Salivary duct stones causing a blockage
- Poor oral hygiene
- Low levels of water in the body
- Chronic illness
- Autoimmune disease
How Do I Know If I Have an Infection of the Salivary Gland?
If you have more than one of the following symptoms, you might have a salivary gland infection. If you think you have a salivary gland infection, make an appointment with your doctor to get tested.
Symptoms of Infection
Keep in mind that some of these symptoms can also indicate other problems. Testing is necessary to ensure you are treating the correct issue.
- Abnormal taste in mouth
- Foul taste in mouth
- Decreased ability to open your mouth
- Dry mouth
- Pus draining into the mouth
- Pain in the mouth or face when eating or using mouth
- Redness along face and upper neck
- Swelling in your face (especially in ears, jaw, and mouth)
Diagnosing a Salivary Gland Infection
The first step to diagnosing a salivary gland infection is to contact your doctor or dentist. Either one can perform an initial exam to check for swollen glands.
The next step is to get a CT scan, an MRI Scan, or an ultrasound. Each of these tests can determine if there is an infection. Your doctor may recommend one of these tests if they suspect the cause of your infection is an abscess or salivary duct stones.
If your provider notices that multiple glands are affected, they may want to do a mumps test.
The last step is a bacterial culture. This will help determine what type of bacteria or virus is causing the infection.
Treatment of Salivary Gland Infection
In mild cases treatment may not be necessary. Your doctor may just prescribe medications to treat the symptoms.
For more severe cases treatment options include:
If your infection is due to bacteria or if you have a fever or pus drainage then your provider may prescribe antibiotics. However, if your infection is caused by a virus then antibiotics won’t help.
Surgery or Aspiration
Can be used to drain an abscess if it is the cause.
Sialendoscopy is a new technique that uses a small camera and small instruments to diagnose and treat infections in the salivary glands.
While there aren’t that many options for direct treatment, there are more options for self-care that can help mitigate the symptoms.
Self-Treatment Options Include:
Good Oral Hygiene
Make sure you are keeping your mouth clean. Brushing two or three times a day is important. It is also important to floss. Flossing in the morning after breakfast and in the evening before bed are the two best times.
Salt Water Mouth Rinse
Rinse your mouth with warm salt water a couple of times a day. For the salt water mix a half tablespoon of salt into one cup of warm water.
If you are a smoker, stop smoking since it can make the infection worse or make it last longer.
Drink Lots of Water
Water, plus sugar free lemon cough drops, can increase the release of saliva which will help keep your mouth clean.
A gentle massage of your glands with a soft warm cloth can help.
A warm compress can also help soothe any inflammation or pain.
Most infections will clear up without problems. However, there are a few things that can go wrong and may need help from a doctor.
An abscess may require surgery to drain it and keep it clean.
Continued Return of Infection
If the infection keeps coming back you may need to consult a doctor for options.
If the infection spreads, a doctor may need to prescribe something to help your body fight the infection.
It is important to get medical help if your symptoms get worse instead of better. Go to an emergency room if you have a high fever, trouble breathing, or problems swallowing.
Ask Our Dentist if You Have More Questions About Salivary Gland Infections
The good news is that a salivary gland infection is not a severe problem. The bad news is that there isn’t much that a doctor can do besides diagnose the infection and prescribe medicine to treat the symptoms.
Creating Smiles, PC, located in St. John and Valparaiso, Indiana, offers everything you need for a healthy smile and a healthier life. Dr. Kapers and his team can take the anxiety and uncertainty out of dental visits with sedation dentistry, and we're the premier provider of dental implants in the region.