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Salivary Gland Infection Symptoms and Treatment

Discomfort, redness, or swelling, is it a sore throat, the flu, or something else? It may be a salivary gland infection. Read on to learn the signs and symptoms to get the care you need, and learn about preventing salivary gland infections in the future.

What Do the Salivary Glands Do?

Everyone has three pairs of salivary glands: the parotid, submandibular and sublingual. These hard-working glands found in the lower arch and sides of your mouth produce saliva to help keep your mouth clean and help break down and digest food. But sometimes, an infection can cause your salivary glands to malfunction and even cause you pain. What could feel like the usual sore throat and fever might be a salivary gland infection.

Risk Factors

According to the National Institutes of Health, there are several risk factors for salivary gland infections. Mumps is caused by a viral infection that most often affects the parotid glands. Risks for developing bacterial infections in the salivary glands  include:

  • Dehydration
  • Poor oral hygiene
  • Smoking tobacco products
  • Autoimmune diseases
  • Blocked salivary ducts by salivary stones

What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Salivary Gland Infections?

Salivary gland infection may lead to one or more of the following symptoms:

  • Dry mouth
  • A bad taste or odor that doesn't go away
  • Discomfort in the face, mouth, and throat, especially when eating or opening your mouth
  • Swelling or pain in the neck and face
  • Redness around the bottom of your cheeks and neck
  • Fever and chills

If you notice these signs or symptoms, make an appointment with your dentist or primary care physician. Infections can become much worse if they are not treated promptly.

Salivary Gland Infection Treatment

If your healthcare provider diagnoses a bacterial infection, they will likely prescribe antibiotics. However, if your salivary glands have an abscess, the American Academy of Family Physicians recommends that it be surgically drained. Salivary gland infections should be addressed by a qualified healthcare provider, especially since they can often be mistaken for other ailments, like a sore throat or the flu.

Even with treatment, it may be a few days before you recover from your infection. In the meantime, you can deal with the pain by rinsing with a warm saltwater rinse and applying heat compresses to your mouth and throat. You may also take over-the-counter pain relievers as long as you follow the package directions.

Infection Prevention

Harmful bacteria in the mouth cause infections. The best preventative measure is adopting a good oral care routine. Brush your teeth twice daily with a toothpaste that helps prevent plaque build-up and gingivitis, clean between your teeth daily, and rinse with antiseptic mouthrinse to kill germs. Make sure also to keep hydrated since saliva helps clear your mouth of harmful bacteria.

If you're a smoker, you should know that it makes you more susceptible to infections because smoking contributes to poor oral hygiene and poor periodontal health. If you have multiple salivary gland infections a year, talk to your doctor about your risk factors and the best prevention methods for you.

Salivary gland infections can be easily treated by a healthcare professional. Keep these symptoms in mind and keep up good oral hygiene habits to prevent bacteria from causing an infection.

This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.

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