What Is It?
The salivary glands contain a network of tiny tubes called ducts. Saliva flows through them into the mouth. If the flow is reduced or stopped for some reason, bacteria can grow. This can cause an infection called sialadenitis (sigh-a-lah-den-EYE-tis). Sialadenitis is most common in the parotid gland (in front of your ear) and the submandibular gland (under your chin). It usually is caused by Staphylococcus aureus bacteria.
Sialadenitis occurs most often in people with a combination of the following:
- Older age (past 50)
- Debilitated from illness or dehydrated
- Dry mouth (xerostomia)
Saliva flow can be reduced in people who are sick or recovering from surgery, or in certain elderly people. A stone (sialolith) or a kink in the duct also can diminish saliva flow. Diseases that reduce salivary flow (such as Sjögren's syndrome) may lead to sialadenitis. People having treatment for cancer also are susceptible to this infection.
Sialadenitis may cause a tender, painful lump in one cheek or under your chin. Pus may drain through the gland into your mouth. If the infection spreads, you may have fever, chills and malaise (a general sick feeling).
Your dentist will feel the affected gland and see if it is swollen. If the gland discharges pus, this may be tested for bacteria. You also may get other tests that will show images of your salivary glands and ducts.
Sialadenitis usually goes away within one week if treated. A low-grade infection can become chronic (long-lasting). In this case, it will continue for weeks to months and get worse from time to time.
Always drink plenty of fluids. This is especially important after surgery, during illness or in elderly people.
The first step is to make sure you have enough fluid in your body. You might need to receive fluids intravenously (through a vein). Next, you will be given antibiotics to destroy the bacteria.
Once fluid balance has been restored, your dentist may recommend sugarless sour candies or gum. They can stimulate your body to produce more saliva.
If the infection is not improving, you may need surgery to open and drain the gland. If the sialadenitis is caused by a stone in the duct, the stone may need to be removed by surgery.
When To Call a Professional
If you notice a red, tender lump in front of your ear or under your chin, call your dentist, particularly if you are in a high-risk group for sialadenitis.
With prompt diagnosis and appropriate and aggressive treatment, the outlook is very good.
National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research
National Institutes of Health
Bethesda, MD 20892-2190
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