No one wants to feel self-conscious about bad breath, but if you have a salivary gland blockage, you may need to take extra care to ensure your breath is fresh. Unfortunately, if you're dealing with this condition, bad breath can be a by-product. Read on to find out more about the causes, the effect it can have on your oral care and how best to treat bad breath.
What Is a Salivary Gland?
Salivary glands are located in the throat and mouth. Their major function is to deliver saliva to the mouth. According to the American Academy of Otolaryngology (AAO), the main salivary glands are known as the parotid, submandibular and sublingual. These are located near your upper teeth, in the floor of your mouth and under your tongue, respectively. Additionally, there are smaller glands, known as buccal mucosal glands located in your cheeks and lip area. You might think of these glands as faucets that continuously flow to keep your mouth moist and healthy.
But when a salivary gland blockage occurs, saliva production is inhibited, disturbing the moisture level in your mouth, which can lead to bad breath.
Causes of Gland Blockage
There are several reasons a salivary gland can become blocked:
- Swollen glands: It's common that the parotid and submandibular glands become blocked when stones form, per AAO, which causes swelling and obstructs secretion. In fact, the makeup of saliva can cause stones to form, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH)
- Mumps and infection: An infection or a virus can also create a blockage. The mumps virus, or any type of infection in this area, can cause swelling, stopping saliva flow.
- Tumor: Though a benign tumor is just as capable of causing blockage, a malignant tumor can cause severe blockage, pain and, according to AAO, may even affect a greater area of your face.
- Other health issues: If you're managing other health issues, like arthritis, diabetes or another autoimmune illness, one side effect can be inflammation or enlargement of your salivary glands.
Needless to say, these blockages can range from uncomfortable to painful, and if swollen, they can become abscessed if left untreated.
Impact on Your Oral Health
A blockage in your salivary glands can hinder the production of saliva, and your mouth needs a certain amount to remain healthy. Your saliva is responsible for helping to balance bacteria levels, keeping larger, unhealthy amounts at bay. It contains "disease fighting substances," according to the American Dental Association (ADA), which can stop infections and decay. But, when your mouth is too dry, it can foster an increase of bacteria, which can lead to tooth decay. Additionally, a buildup of bacteria can give off a malodorous scent, which causes bad breath.
Steps to Maintain Fresh Breath
While it's important to follow your doctor's treatment plan, whether that's antibiotics for infection, surgery to remove stones, or continued treatment of other ailments that have led to the blockage, there are steps you can take on your own to inhibit bad breath.
Managing your dry mouth is essential to your good, daily oral care routine and in curbing bad breath. The The Mayo Clinic recommends a few at-home care options for tackling bad breath:
- Drink plenty of water. Water moistens your mouth to help wash away harmful bacteria.
- Avoid alcohol, coffee and soft drinks, which can slow saliva production.
- Stay away from pungent foods, like garlic and onions.
- If the condition is long-lasting, your dentist might also prescribe medicine to help you produce extra saliva.
Continue to brush your tongue and teeth with a soft-bristled toothbrush, such as the Colgate 360º Enamel Health toothbrush, to reduce bacteria buildup. And make sure to work with both your doctor and dentist to receive well-rounded treatment for your blockage and continued oral care.