Having a radiant smile doesn’t just involve pink healthy gums and shiny pearly whites, it also involves proper saliva production to protect the oral tissues in your mouth. This clear liquid lubricates your mouth so that you can swallow, while protecting your teeth and gums from bacteria. It also makes your breath smell better, helps you digest your food, and even keeps dentures or other dental appliances in place!
Comprised mainly of water, it also contains mucus, glycoproteins, electrolytes, enzymes and antibacterial compounds which travel through tubes in the mouth from your salivary glands. These glands are found under the tongue, on the floor of the mouth and inside both cheeks. On occasion, problems can develop causing your glands to become blocked and preventing saliva flow. This can result in dry mouth, pain in the glands, fever, pus, and swollen glands. Common problems they may incur which can affect your smile include the following.
Cysts and tumors – Cysts and tumors can erupt from stones, injuries or infections which block the saliva flow in the glands. They can show up as a soft raised area or blister and can interfere with eating and speaking. Tumors are usually painless and grow slowly.
Salivary stones – Salivary stones are saliva deposits which have crystallized. These stones can cause the salivary glands to swell, and if they block saliva flow you will have swelling and pain. To prevent an infection in these glands usually requires treatment.
Salivary gland infection – These bacterial infections in the glands block the ducts and typically arise in one salivary gland rather than both. They can be accompanied by fever and pain, and can develop from bacteria in the mouth or staph bacteria. You will feel a painful lump in the mouth which secretes pus (a foul tasting fluid). Left untreated, you can incur fever, abscesses and severe pain.
Infections – Viral infections (like the flu or mumps) can cause swelling in the salivary glands. But unlike bacterial infections, these usually happen in the glands inside both cheeks, and you will have puffy looking cheeks.
Treatment for salivary gland problems may include medication, antibiotics, stone removal, warm compresses, and even sour candies to increase saliva flow. For tumors and large cysts, you may require surgery to remove the problem.
If you have any questions or concerns about your salivary glands, you can schedule a visit with one of our four skilled dentists, Dr. Mark Winkler, Dr. Neil Charaipotra, Dr. Judith Coulter, and Dr. Erol Kanli. We invite you to call our Northern Virginia Dental Associates team in Springfield, Virginia at 703.451.8332 today!