Salivary gland infections
Salivary gland infections affect the glands that produce spit (saliva). The infection may be due to bacteria or viruses.
There are 3 pairs of major salivary glands:
All of the salivary glands empty saliva into the mouth. The saliva enters the mouth through ducts that open into the mouth in different places.
Salivary gland infections are somewhat common, and they can return in some people.
Viral infections, such as mumps, often affect the salivary glands. (Mumps most often involves the parotid salivary gland). There are fewer cases today because of the widespread use of the MMR vaccine.
Bacterial infections are most often the result of a:
Exams and Tests
Your health care provider or dentist will do an exam to look for enlarged glands. You may also have pus that drains into the mouth. The gland is often painful.
A CT scan, MRI scan, or ultrasound may be done if the provider suspects an abscess, or to look for stones.
Your provider may suggest a mumps blood test if multiple glands are involved.
In some cases, no treatment is needed.
Treatment from your provider may include:
Self-care steps you can take at home to help with recovery include:
Most salivary gland infections go away on their own or are cured with treatment. Some infections will return. Complications are not common.
Complications may include:
When to Contact a Medical Professional
Call your provider if you have:
Get medical help right away if you have:
In many cases, salivary gland infections can't be prevented. Good oral hygiene may prevent some cases of bacterial infection.
Elluru RG. Physiology of the salivary glands. In: Flint PW, Haughey BH, Lund V, et al, eds. Cummings Otolaryngology: Head and Neck Surgery. 6th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2015:chap 83.
Jackson NM, Mitchell JL, Walvekar RR. Inflammatory disorders of the salivary glands. In: Flint PW, Haughey BH, Lund V, et al, eds. Cummings Otolaryngology: Head and Neck Surgery. 6th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2015:chap 85.
Review Date: 8/12/2019
Reviewed By: Josef Shargorodsky, MD, MPH, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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