Tips to Improve your Salivary Gland Infection
Battling with a salivary gland infection is not easy. Difficulty in swallowing and discomfort on both sides of the mouth are common symptoms you have to bear with. Salivary gland infections greatly affect your daily routine, reducing your efficiency at work. Recurrent salivary gland infections can take a toll on your emotional and physical wellbeing. In order to have a permanent remedy for such ailments, it is important to have yourself treated by an experienced ENT specialist. Missed school days and absence from work can be avoided, following the right course of action. TheENT Clinic Singapore, with its experts in the field of otolaryngology, can bring a difference to your troubled ENT maladies.
What is a salivary gland infection?
Like most other infections, a salivary gland infection is caused by either bacterial or viral agents. It is also medically referred to as sialadenitis. A salivary gland infection can occur due to reduced saliva flow. This reduction in saliva can be due to inflammation in the salivary duct or a blockage in the duct. When this happens it causes tenderness, swelling and pain.
The saliva present in our oral cavity plays a major role in initiating the process of digestion. In addition, it helps to wash down bacteria helping maintain good oral hygiene, by controlling the numbers of good and bad bacteria present. However, if the salivary duct doesn’t function optimally, then due to reduced saliva flow, bacteria and food particles tend to retain in the mouth. This leads to an infection with multiplication of bad bacteria in the food debris.
What do our salivary glands look like?
There are two forms of salivary glands, the major and minor salivary glands. The most important being the major salivary glands which are larger in size producing most of the saliva in the oral cavity. There are three major pairs of salivary glands found on either side of the face. The parotid glands are the largest, found in front of the ears inside each cheek. A swelling in these glands is referred to asparotitis. The submandibular glands are present below the jaw and saliva is secreted under the tongue. The smallest of the major salivary glands is the sublingual glands found under the floor of the mouth.
Minor salivary glands line throughout the mouth and is present in hundreds in the tongue, lip-lining, cheeks, sinuses and roof of the mouth. Their involvement in saliva production is little compared to the major salivary glands.
How are salivary gland infections caused?
Salivary gland infections are mostly caused by bacteria. The most common bacterial infection responsible, is caused by the bacterium Staphylococcus aureus, while other bacteria like Streptococcus viridans, Escherichia coli, Streptococcus pyogenes and Haemophilusinfluenzae too may be possible causative agents involved in initiating the infection.
Viral infections too can have a hand in salivary gland infections. Children who develop mumps develop parotitis. In addition, viral infections due to influenza A, herpes and HIV can lead to the inflammation of salivary glands.
Obstruction in the salivary ducts is another cause. This obstruction can be due to an abnormal structure in the salivary ducts, formation of tumours, salivary gland stones or kinks in the salivary ducts.
Maintaining good oral hygiene is also important along with proper hydration and nutrition. A weakened immune system is more susceptible to infections.
What are the risk factors for infection?
Some individuals are more prone to infections than others. The elderly have a higher prevalence of salivary gland infections than the young. Being over 65 years, maintaining poor oral hygiene and not being vaccinated for mumps will increase your risk of the disease.
In addition, presence of chronic conditions like HIV, diabetes, dry mouth syndrome, malnutrition, bulimia and alcoholism are additional risk factors for salivary gland infections.
What are the symptoms of salivary gland infections?
Usually symptoms last for about 7 days and then fade out. Acute infections may not always lead to additional complications, however the symptoms of salivary gland infections can differ from individual to individual depending on where the infection occurs and its severity. The head and neck is mostly affected and the common symptoms observed include:
- Discomfort when swallowing
- Pain in the mouth and neck region
- Swelling in the jaw
- Redness around the jaw
- Pus in mouth
- Bad taste in mouth which doesn’t go away after brushing and flossing
- Dryness in mouth
- Tenderness to touch
- Increased body temperature
If your symptoms are severe, you need to seek help from an ENT doctor without delay. Severe infections lasting over 10 days accompanied with high fever and chills, severe pain when eating and drinking together with symptoms which doesn’t improve with hydration and daily brushing and flossing need urgent medical intervention. It is advisable to seek help from an ENT specialist who can give a proper diagnosis.
What are the possible complications?
Although complications are rare, if untreated, the pus which collects in your mouth can form an abscess in the salivary gland. Salivary gland enlargement too is a possible complication which can be caused due to a benign tumour causing obstruction. If it is due to a malignant tumour, it can lead to loss of mobility in the affected regions of the face. Severe parotitis can damage the affected salivary glands. In case the infection crosses the salivary gland to reach other parts of the body, it may lead to cellulitis.
How are salivary gland infections diagnosed?
Your ENT doctor will perform a physical examination. Presence of pain and pus in mouth are a sign of infection. If a salivary gland infection is suspected, your doctor may perform additional imaging tests to confirm the diagnosis and find out what is causing the salivary gland infection. The most commonly performed tests include ultrasound scans or a CT or MRI scan.
In order to find the causative agent of the infection, a biopsy may be performed in the affected salivary gland and the sample cultured to find the bacterial origin.
How are salivary gland infections treated?
Acute salivary gland infections tend to go off on its own. You can help yourself with some home remedies like, gargling with salt water, keeping your mouth hydrated by increasing the amount of fluid intake or sucking on lemon candy to induce saliva flow.
Treatment options by a doctor can vary depending on the severity of the disease and the location where the infection is found. A specialist is the best choice to treat your chronic condition which doesn’t go away with home remedies. Some of the common treatment options include:
- Antibiotics: Infections caused by bacteria are managed through antibiotics.
- Managing chronic conditions: Although there are no specific medications to improve infections caused by viruses, managing chronic conditions like herpes, HIV and influenza can improve the infection.
- Abscess Draining: If the salivary gland infection is caused by an abscess, then draining it can help to improve the condition.
- Surgery: Chronic and recurrent infections may need surgery. Blockages caused due to salivary gland stones, tumours, kinks or abnormal structures in the salivary glands where recurrent infection cannot be prevented, surgery remains the preferred option. During the surgical procedure, partial or complete removal of the parotid salivary gland or submandibular gland can occur.
Can salivary gland infections be prevented?
Most of the time, there is no way to prevent it, but reducing the risk factors will help to reduce your chance of developing the disease. Some of the practices you may include in your daily life include:
- Practicing good oral hygiene
- Quitting smoking and tobacco products
- Limiting alcohol which dehydrates your mouth
- Keeping yourself hydrated with plenty of fluids
- Regular dental clean-ups, at least annually.
- Salt water gargling at the signs of an infection
We understand that recurrent salivary gland infections are troublesome in your daily life. The ENT Clinic Singapore, with its highly qualified ENT surgeons and supporting staff, handle salivary gland infections and other ENT ailments skilfully using the latest technology and expertise to ensure patients receive personalised, friendly and comprehensive care.