What You Need to Know About Salivary Gland Disorders

drool dripping out of lips with bright pink lipstick

Do you often have a dry mouth, difficulty swallowing, or frequent infections in the salivary glands? If so, then you may be suffering from a disorder related to your salivary glands. Salivary gland disorders can prevent saliva production and secretion, leading to uncomfortable symptoms such as mouth pain and bad breath. In this blog post we will discuss what causes these disorders, how they’re diagnosed and treated, and which lifestyle choices are necessary for good salivary gland health. By understanding the ins-and-outs of salivary gland issues you’ll be better equipped to manage any potential problems that arise in the future.

What are salivary glands and what do they do?

The salivary glands are organs located in the mouth that help to produce saliva. They are responsible for secreting enzymes and electrolytes, and creating an alkaline environment to break down food and make it easier to digest. Saliva is also important for keeping teeth clean, as its flow helps to wash away food debris, bacteria, and other debris which would otherwise cause decay. Without our salivary glands, we would be unable to chew and swallow our food properly!

Common Salivary Gland Disorders

Salivary gland disorders can be uncomfortable and even painful, but understanding their symptoms can help you identify an issue before it becomes more serious. There are several types of salivary gland disorders, including:

  • Sialolithiasis occurs when stones lodge in one of the glands typically located under the tongue or along its side edges. Sialadenitis is an inflammation of the salivary gland, which can be caused by bacteria or viruses. It can also develop when stones are blocking the salivary glands. Common symptoms include a salty taste in your mouth, pain that usually comes and goes but worsens with eating or drinking acidic foods, dry mouth, swollen glands, and difficulty opening your mouth widely. 
  • Sjorgren’s syndrome is an autoimmune disorder that affects the salivary glands and causes dryness in the eyes and mouth. Typical symptoms include a burning sensation any time you eat or drink something hot or cold as well as thick saliva build-up at night. You may also experience dry eyes, joint pain or swelling, and fatigue.
  • Viruses such as influenza, mumps, Coxsackie, echovirus, and cytomegalovirus can all affect the salivary glands. Typical symptoms include fever, muscle aches, joint pain, swelling in the face, and headache.

If you are experiencing any of these signs associated with a common salivary gland disorder, its best to get medical assistance right away to find relief from both pain and discomfort.

How to Diagnose a Salivary Gland Disorder

Diagnosing a salivary gland disorder can be difficult due to the small size and intricate anatomy of the glands. The first step is to have a general physical examination, including an inspection of the mouth and neck area. If a doctor suspects a problem, then diagnostic tests such as blood tests and imaging studies may need to be performed to rule out any other causes.

In some cases, further testing may be necessary to confirm the presence of a salivary gland disorder, including sialography or ultrasound scanning which provide detailed images of the affected areas. Depending upon the diagnosis and test results, treatment usually consists of medications or surgery. Some patients may also benefit from lifestyle modifications such as quitting smoking or improving their overall diet. Consulting with a qualified medical professional is essential in order to arrive at an accurate diagnosis and course of treatment for any salivary gland disorder.

Treatment for Salivary Gland Disorders

Salivary gland disorders can cause significant discomfort and difficulty for patients, but there are fortunately treatments available to reduce symptoms. The treatment of salivary gland disorders depends on the underlying cause of the disorder. Antibiotics or antiviral medications may be prescribed for bacterial or viral infections. Pain relievers, warm compresses, and saliva-stimulating medications can also help manage symptoms.

Surgery may also be recommended in extreme cases to treat infections and remove stones that block the salivary ducts. It is important to seek medical advice as soon as possible if one suspects that they might be suffering from a salivary gland disorder so the appropriate course of treatment can be determined.

Why to See an ENT

Seeing an Ear, Nose and Throat (ENT) doctor should be the first step when there is suspicion of a salivary gland disorder. Salivary gland disorders result in problems producing saliva either constantly or intermittently, leading to difficulties such as dry mouth and other complications. Even though such conditions can be caused by various sources, seeking treatment with an ENT is necessary due to the knowledge and expertise they possess regarding the head and neck region.

An ENT (Ear, Nose, and Throat) doctor, also known as an otolaryngologist, is a medical specialist who is trained to diagnose and treat conditions related to the head and neck, including the salivary glands. Seeing an ENT doctor for salivary gland disorders is important because these specialists have extensive knowledge of the anatomy, function, and disorders of the salivary glands.

ENT doctors can provide a comprehensive evaluation of the salivary gland disorder and determine the underlying cause of the symptoms. They have access to specialized diagnostic tools, such as imaging tests and biopsy procedures, to accurately diagnose the condition. They can also provide appropriate treatment options, which may include medication, surgery, or radiation therapy.

Furthermore, ENT doctors can identify any potential complications of salivary gland disorders, such as the risk of infection, nerve damage, or obstruction of the airway. They can also monitor the progress of the treatment and make necessary adjustments to ensure the best outcome for the patient. If you experience any signs of a salivary gland disorder, make an appointment with your ENT doctor as soon as possible for evaluation and appropriate treatment before it becomes a persistent problem.

In Conclusion

In conclusion, salivary glands are an important part of the human body, responsible for producing saliva and helping to digest food. Unfortunately, a variety of salivary gland disorders can develop if the body does not produce enough saliva or if the ducts become blocked. To ensure early diagnosis and evidence-based treatment for any disorder of the salivary glands, it is important to seek medical attention as soon as symptoms appear.

Lee A. Kleiman a doctor at Anne Arundel ENT

Dr. Lee A. Kleiman is a double board certified ENT & plastic surgeon at Anne Arundel ENT in Annapolis, Maryland known for his superior clinical outcomes in all Surgical and Non-Surgical ENT, specializing in Sinus Care, Voice and Swallowing, Rhinoplasty and Revision Rhinoplasty, and Facelifts and Non-surgical Aesthetic. He also continues to attend conferences internationally and nationally to keep abreast of the latest treatments and technology.