Salivary Gland Disorders

Salivary glands are glands inside the mouth which produce saliva. Three pairs of salivary glands which are larger compared to the others are parotid glands, submandibular glands and sublingual glands.

Parotid glands: These glands are located on the upper part of the cheeks on either side. Duct of the parotid gland opens to the inside of the cheek near the upper jaw molars.

Submandibular glands: Submandibular glands are located below the jaw on either side and it empties its content to the floor of the mouth.

Sublingual gland: Sublingual glands are situated below the floor of the mouth on either side of the tongue and it empties its content to the floor of the mouth.  There are about 600 to 1000 other salivary glands which are scattered across the throat and the mouth. They are located under the linings of the palate, inner lips, inner cheeks, pharynx, sinuses etc. Due to allergic reaction, infection or   trauma it has been found that all of these salivary glands may be subjected to various disorders which are explained below.

Sialolithiasis: This disorder is also known as salivary gland stones. In this disorder calcium rich stones are found in the salivary glands. Though the exact causes  for these stones are not known it is believed that the following can be the causes of the stone formation in salivary glands.

1)      Thickening of saliva due to dehydration.

2)      Decreased intake of food which may lower the demand for saliva.

3)    Intake of blood pressure drugs and psychiatric drugs which can reduce the production          of saliva.

Some stones may sit inside the glands without causing any problem. But some others may block the duct and cause obstruction to the flow of saliva which will be followed by infection known as sialadenitis.

Sialadenitis: Sialadenitis is infection of salivary glands caused by bacteria which will be painful. This infection is commonly found among elderly people with stones in their salivary glands.

Viral infections: Viral infections of the whole body sometimes spread to salivary glands. Mumps is a common example of this type of infection.

Cysts: Babies born with genetic problems may have cysts in parotid gland. Other types of cysts may develop in other salivary glands later in life as a result of trauma, infections or stones in salivary glands.

Benign tumors: Benign tumors may be formed mainly on parotid gland which can be aggressive. Smoking, exposure to radiation etc are the causes for benign tumors.

Malignant tumors: Salivary gland cancers are not very common. Sjogren’s syndrome and exposure to radiation are the causes for malignant tumors.

Sjogren’s syndrome: This is an immune disorder. The body’s immune system attacks the salivary glands, sweat glands and oil glands. Women in the middle ages are most affected by this syndrome.

Sialadenosis: Enlargement of salivary glands without any infection or tumor is known as sialadenosis. This type of enlargement is usually seen in parotid gland.