Your salivary glands do a lot more than just make your mouth water at the sight of your favourite snack. These hard-working glands found in the lower arch and sides of your mouth produce saliva to keep your mouth clean and aid in the breakdown and digestion of food. But sometimes, an infection can cause your salivary glands to malfunction and even cause you pain. What could feel like the usual sore throat and fever might actually be a salivary gland infection. Know the signs and symptoms so you can get the necessary care you need, and then care for your glands so it doesn’t happen again. Here’s how.
Risk Factors and Symptoms
According to National Institutes of Health, you’re at risk for a salivary gland infection anytime your body is dehydrated, when you don’t follow good oral hygiene, or if you’re a smoker. Each of these conditions allows bacteria to fester and infect the delicate salivary glands. Everyone has three types of salivary glands (the parotid, submandibular and sublingual), and if any one becomes infected, you might experience the following symptoms:
- Dryness in your mouth.
- A bad taste in your mouth or foul odour that doesn’t go away with brushing.
- Discomfort in your mouth and throat, particularly when you eat or try to open your mouth.
- Facial swelling or pain.
- Redness around the bottom of your cheeks and neck.
- Fever and chills.
If you notice these symptoms, make an appointment with your doctor. Infections can become much worse if they’re not properly addressed.
If your doctor diagnoses you with an infection, it’s likely he or she will prescribe antibiotics, particularly in the presence of pus. If your salivary glands have an abscess, however, the American Academy of Family Physicians suggests that it be surgically drained to aid in healing. Regardless of the treatment plan, salivary gland infections should be addressed by a qualified healthcare provider, especially since they can often be mistaken for other ailments, like a sore throat or the flu.
Pain and Prevention
Even with treatment, it may be a few days before you recover from your infection. In the meantime, you can help manage the pain by swishing with a warm saltwater rinse and applying heat compresses to your mouth and throat. You can also take an over-the-counter pain reliever, such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen, as long as you follow the package directions.
Infections are caused by harmful bacteria in the mouth. The best preventative measure is adopting a good oral care routine. Brush your teeth twice daily with a product that helps prevent plaque, tartar build-up and gingivitis, floss daily, and rinse with mouthwash to kill germs. Make sure to also keep hydrated, since saliva is instrumental in clearing your mouth of harmful bacteria. If you’re a smoker, you should know that it makes you more susceptible to infections as smoking dehydrates the mouth and leaves it ripe for infection. If you’re having multiple salivary gland infections a year, talk to your doctor about your personal risk factors and the best prevention methods for you.