The salivary glands are used to make saliva. They empty it into the mouth through openings referred to as ducts. Saliva is very useful as it moistens food, helps in chewing, in the digestion process and it also cleans the mouth by killing germs as it contains antibodies. There are three major pairs of salivary glands. They include:
- Parotid glands o the sides of the face
- Submandibular glands at the floor of the mouth
- Sublingual glands under the tongue.
When a problem occurs in the salivary glands, one may experience symptoms like salivary gland swelling, dry mouth, pain, fever, and foul tasting drainage in the mouth. Salivary glands problems are extremely dangerous as they interfere with the function of the salivary glands making them unable to produce saliva. Salivary glands problems are caused by the following:
- Obstruction: obstruction to the flow of saliva occurs in the parotid and submandibular gland. The saliva starts to flow but it cannot exit the ductile system. This leads to swelling of the gland. If the stones do not totally obstruct the saliva flow the major glands will swell when eating and subside gradually after the meal and enlarges during the next meal.
- Infection: this is another problem that affects the salivary glands. It commonly occurs in children and it is known as mumps. It involves the parotid gland. These infections occur due to sluggish flow of saliva because the mouth has abundant bacteria. Another secondary infection of the salivary glands from nearby lymph nodes may occur. These lymph nodes are located on, within, and deep in the substance of the parotid or submandibular gland. When they enlarge through infection, one may have a red, painful swelling in the area of the parotid or submandibular glands.
- Tumors: they are detected as a growth in the parotid and submandibular gland on the palate floor of the mouth because they rarely involve more than one gland. Malignant tumors of the major salivary glands can grow very fast and may result in loss of movement of part or all of the affected side of the face.
- Other disorders: enlargement of the salivary gland which occurs in people with diseases such as HIV and sjogren’s syndrome where the immune system attacks the salivary glands causing significant inflammation. People who take alcohol may have salivary gland swellings.