Your beautiful, healthy smile depends on many factors, not just healthy teeth and gums. Saliva is an essential component of a healthy mouth. This clear liquid is comprised mostly of water, mixed with mucus, glycoproteins, antibacterial compounds, electrolytes, and enzymes. Saliva travels through tubes in the mouth–salivary ducts–from your salivary glands located under the tongue, at the bottom of the mouth and inside each cheek.
Saliva helps your mouth feel comfortable by lubricating oral tissues so that you can swallow. It also keeps dentures in place and protects your teeth (and gums) from bacteria, making your breath smell better, as well as helping you digest your food. The ducts and glands can be blocked, preventing the drainage of saliva and you can experience dry mouth, pain, fever, bad tasting secretions, and swollen salivary glands. What causes this to happen?
Cysts and Tumors – these can arise in the salivary glands from stones, injuries and infections that block the gland flow. Cysts may show up as a soft raised area or blister and can interfere with eating and speaking. Tumors are usually painless and grow slowly.
Salivary stones – or sialoliths arise from crystallized saliva deposits, causing the salivary glands to swell up. If the stones block the saliva flow, it backs up causing swelling and pain. If the blockage isn’t treated the swollen gland can become infected, and you will feel intermittent pain that continues to worsen.
Salivary gland infection – or sialadenitis, is a bacterial infection in the salivary gland, blocking the duct into the mouth. There will be a lump in the mouth that is painful which secretes bad tasting fluid, or pus. Without treatment this will cause fevers, abscess and severe pain. Bacterial infections usually erupt in one-side of the salivary glands, accompanied by fever and pain. They can arise from the bacteria in the mouth, or even staph bacteria. If you are dehydrated and malnourished this can increase your risk of contracting a bacterial infection.
Viral infections – If you contract a viral infection such as the flu or the mumps, it can cause your salivary glands to swell. This usually happens in the glands inside both cheeks, giving you the appearance of puffy cheeks.
Treating these conditions may require medication, antibiotics, stone removal, warm compresses, and even sour candies to increase saliva flow. Surgery may also be required to remove tumors or large cysts.
If you have any questions or concerns about your salivary glands, you can schedule a visit with Dr. Lynh Pham by calling our Smiley Dental Hampton team in Dallas, Texas at 214.467.4800 today!