What Are Common Salivary Gland Disorders?
A lack of saliva causes a condition called xerostomia, or dry mouth, which can cause an increase in tooth decay, bad breath, and even digestive problems. Because these glands secrete saliva through a tiny opening at the end of a tube, they sometimes get blocked or inflamed, causing less saliva flow. Learn more about these common disorders that affect your salivary glands:
- Salivary stones. Also known as sialolithiasis, these hardened mineral deposits form in the gland ducts and obstruct saliva flow. These stones can also cause the gland to swell and become infected. Small stones are treated by applying moist heat to the area and staying hydrated. Larger stones will need to be removed by a dental professional.
- Inflamed salivary gland. Sialadenitis occurs when a virus or bacteria causes the salivary gland to become inflamed. For example, mumps is a virus that infects the parotid gland. An infection can cause pain, tenderness, redness, and fever or chills. Treatment may require hydration and intravenous antibiotics to keep the infection from spreading to the head and neck's deep tissues or bloodstream, which can be dangerous.
- Tumors or cysts. These rare tumors occur when abnormal cells grow in the salivary glands. Most salivary gland tumors are benign and most frequently involve the parotid glands. Cysts can also develop in the glands after infections, injuries, or stones. Tumors are usually surgically removed, while small cysts often drain on their own.
- Other disorders. Several diseases and autoimmune disorders can cause inflammation and pain in the salivary glands. These include HIV/Aids, Sjögren's syndrome, rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes, and even alcoholism.
Specific medications can also lower saliva production and cause dry mouth. Fortunately, your dentist can prescribe a product to help relieve those symptoms or work to find an alternative that can reduce dry mouth effects.