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Have you ever had swelling in your mouth and weren’t quite sure what it could be? The culprit might just be parotid gland swelling or inflammation.

About the Parotid Gland

Your parotid glands are the largest of your salivary glands and are located in your mouth in the upper part of either cheek, in front of and beneath your ears. The ducts of these glands help empty saliva into your mouth. Their secretions help you chew, swallow and digest starches.

The saliva also helps defend against bacteria and tooth decay. Mouth infections are typically caused by bacteria, but viral infections such as the mumps, flu and other types can cause swelling as well. A dentist or doctor can diagnose your type of infection.

A visual exam is the first step in verifying an infection. Additional testing may be needed to help the doctor determine if the infection is caused by an abscess, salivary stone or tumor. A biopsy might be necessary to test for bacteria or viruses. In some cases, your doctor may use an ultrasound, MRI, X-ray, or CT scan to make an accurate diagnosis.

Parotid Gland Swelling Symptoms

If you have a parotid gland swelling, you may notice symptoms such as:

  • Tender, painful lump in your cheek
  • Foul-tasting discharge from the duct into your mouth
  • Fever, chills and general weakness
  • Difficulty fully opening your mouth, speaking, chewing or swallowing

What You Can Do: Treatment and Prevention for Parotid Gland Swelling

The right treatment depends on the cause, type of infection, and any other symptoms causing the pain and swelling. Home treatments can sometimes be helpful. For example, drinking lots of water with lemon can help stimulate the saliva. You can also try massaging the affected gland or applying warm compresses to the affected area. Some people find that rinsing the mouth out with warm salt water is helpful, along with sucking on sour drops to encourage the flow of saliva.

You can also see your doctor for antibiotics, which help treat bacterial infections, pus, and fever. The doctor or dentist can also do a fine needle aspiration to help drain an abscess.

Preventing parotid gland swelling might be as simple as keeping up with good oral hygiene habits. Brushing twice a day will help fend off bacteria that causes cavities and infection. Flossing once a day at night will also help keep your mouth in tip-top shape. Tack on a twice-yearly regular check-up with your dental health professional, and you can smile knowing that you are doing all you can for a clean and healthy mouth!