Your beautiful smile depends on healthy teeth and gums, which is why you want to brush and floss daily and seeing your dentist for regular cleanings. But your salivary glands are vital to your healthy smile as well, as saliva lubricates your mouth so that you can swallow, while protecting your teeth and gums from bacteria. It makes your breath smell better, helps you digest your food and helps keep dentures and other dental appliances in place.
This clear liquid, made mostly of water mixed with mucus, glycoproteins, electrolytes, enzymes and antibacterial compounds, travels through tubes in the mouth from your salivary glands. You will find these glands under your tongue, on the floor of your mouth as well as inside each cheek. Sometimes your salivary glands can become blocked, preventing the usual flow of saliva. This can result in everything from dry mouth, pain in the glands, fever, pus, and swollen salivary glands. Some common salivary gland problems which can affect your healthy smile include:
Cysts and tumors – Cysts and tumors can come up from stones, injuries or infections which block the saliva flow in the glands. They can show up as a blister or soft raised area and interfere with eating and speaking. Tumors are usually painless and grow slowly.
Salivary stones – These are saliva deposits which have crystallized. The stones can cause the salivary glands to swell, and if they block your saliva flow you will have swelling and intermittent pain that worsens. To avoid having an infection in the salivary gland you will need treatment.
Salivary gland infection – These are bacterial infections in the glands blocking the ducts in the mouth. Bacterial infections tend to arise in one salivary gland rather than both, and can be accompanied by fever and pain. These infections can come from the bacteria in the mouth or even staph bacteria. You will likely feel a painful lump in the mouth which secretes pus. Neglecting treatment can result in fevers, abscesses and severe pain.
Viral infections – Viral infections (like the flu or mumps) can cause swelling in the salivary glands. Unlike bacterial infections, these usually happen in the glands inside both cheeks, and you will end up with puffy-looking cheeks.
Treatment for problems with your salivary glands may involve medication, antibiotics, stone removal, warm compresses, and even sour candies to help increase saliva flow. For tumors and large cysts, you may require surgery to remove the problem.
If you have any questions or concerns about your salivary glands, you can schedule a visit with our dedicated dentist, Dr. Keven R. Mills, by calling our dental team in Granite Bay, California at 916-791-7227 today!