Salivary Gland Disorders Q & A
If you’re dealing with swollen cheeks or other symptoms like persistent dry mouth, mouth pain, or foul-tasting drainage, you may have a salivary gland disorder. At SCENT – Southern California Ear, Nose, and Throat, a team of board-certified physicians uses a personalized approach to diagnose and treat salivary gland disorders. There are five locations in Long Beach, Los Alamitos, Huntington Beach, Newport Beach, and Torrance, California, so reach out to the one nearest you by phone or through online booking any time.
What is a salivary gland disorder?
A salivary gland disorder is a problem within the salivary glands that generate saliva in your mouth. You have salivary glands all over your mouth, with the main three types being:
- Parotid glands: the biggest salivary glands, directly in front of your ears.
- Sublingual glands: beneath your tongue
- Submandibular glands: at the back of your jaw, under your ear
Your salivary glands are important because you need saliva to keep your mouth wet, prevent tooth decay, and break down food for digestion. Two of the most common salivary gland disorders are:
Salivary gland stones
Salivary gland stones are very small stones that develop within your salivary glands. They may be related to dehydration, certain medications, or reduced food intake, but the specific cause isn’t always known.
Some salivary gland stones don’t cause issues, but the stones can close the gland duct. This blockage causes dry mouth, swelling, pain, and often leads to a bacterial infection.
Salivary gland tumors
Salivary gland tumors can be either benign or malignant. Most salivary gland tumors develop in the parotid glands. Most salivary gland tumors are benign, as salivary gland tumors account for less than 1% of all cancers in the United States today.
With early detection, salivary gland cancer has an excellent prognosis. The cause of salivary gland tumors isn’t known at this time, but researchers know that they begin with DNA mutations within salivary gland cells.
Some autoimmune conditions, including rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, and Sjögren syndrome, can decrease your saliva production and cause stones or tumors.
How do you diagnose salivary gland disorders?
The team at SCENT – Southern California Ear, Nose, and Throat uses an individualized approach to diagnosis. You may have a salivary gland scan, an endoscopy, a culture (if you have an infection), a biopsy, or other tests depending on your needs.
What is the best treatment for salivary gland disorders?
The team at SCENT – Southern California Ear, Nose, and Throat offers medical and surgical management of salivary gland stones and tumors. Your treatment varies according to your symptoms.
If your main symptom is dry mouth, the team may prescribe improved oral hygiene and possibly prescription medication. If you have a salivary gland infection, you’ll typically need antibiotics.
For stones that cause serious symptoms, you may need a minimally invasive stone removal procedure called sialendoscopy. Your specialist may also use this endoscopic procedure during the original diagnosis. Sialendoscopy is an outpatient procedure that typically has no downtime.
For salivary gland tumors, treatment varies by situation. Usually, salivary gland tumors require surgery, which can vary from partial salivary gland removal to full tumor and lymph node removal, followed by reconstructive surgery. You may also need chemotherapy, radiation, and radiosensitizer drugs.
Salivary gland disorders are very treatable, but you need to get help as soon as you notice a problem like chronic dry mouth or swelling for the best results. Call the SCENT – Southern California Ear, Nose, and Throat office nearest you or use the online booking tool any time.