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Salivary gland disorders

Contents of this page:


Head and neck glands
Head and neck glands

Definition    Return to top

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

Causes    Return to top

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:

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    Return to top

Exams and Tests    Return to top

Tests vary depending on the suspected disorder.

Treatment    Return to top

The treatment varies depending on the specific disorder.

Outlook (Prognosis)    Return to top

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

Possible Complications    Return to top

See the specific disorders.

When to Contact a Medical Professional    Return to top

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

Prevention    Return to top

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.

Update Date: 3/3/2009

Updated 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.

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