Disorders of the salivary glands

Salivary gland disorders are conditions that lead to inflammation or pain in the saliva-producing tissues around the mouth.

The salivary glands produce saliva, which moisturizes food to help in chewing and swallowing, they contain enzymes that initiate the digestion process and also help in cleaning the mouth, removing bacteria and food particles.

Saliva keeps the mouth moist and helps keep orthodontic or dental appliances in place.

There are three pairs of salivary glands:

  • The two largest are the parotid glands, one on each cheek in front of the ears.
  • Two glands under the floor of the mouth (sublingual glands).
  • Two glands that are in the back of the mouth on both sides of the jaw (submandibular glands).

All salivary glands pour saliva into the mouth through the ducts that open in various parts of it. The salivary glands can become inflamed (irritated) by infections, tumors or stones.


  • Abnormal flavors, stinky taste
  • Decreased ability to open the mouth
  • Discomfort when opening the mouth
  • Dryness in the mouth
  • Facial pain or pain in the mouth
  • Swelling in front of the ears
  • Swelling of the face or neck

Tests and exams

The tests vary depending on the condition that is presumably causing the problem. The images of the glands can be seen using ultrasound, magnetic resonance and computed tomography of said glands.

The ducts of the mouth can be examined using an x-ray called solography.

A biopsy of the salivary glands can be used to diagnose problems with these glands.


Most disorders of the salivary glands respond well to treatment.


Most problems of the salivary glands cannot be prevented. Drinking enough fluids, using things that increase salivation (such as acidic treats), and massaging the gland can increase the flow of saliva and help prevent infection.