Blocked Salivary Gland

Believe it or not, our body produces about one quart of saliva per day. It lubricates the mouth, protects your teeth from decay, and aids in swallowing and digestion. You have three pairs of large salivary glands as well as hundreds of tiny ones scattered in the mouth and the throat. What happens when you have a blocked salivary gland? Your saliva drains into small tubes or ducts in the mouth and when one or more of these are blocked, you may experience pain and inflammation. Read on to find out the hidden culprits.

Blocked Salivary Gland: Causes and Symptoms

Your saliva has many chemicals or salts that can form small salivary gland stones, which can block its drainage into the ducts. This can occur due to frequent dehydration or intake of drugs that reduce the production of saliva. People who have gout are also at risk of forming these stones. Salivary gland stone formation is common among adults. In fact, in people who have salivary gland stones, 1 in 4 of them has more than one stone, causing blockage. Other factors like tumor or Sjogren's syndrome can also lead to this condition.

A blocked salivary gland causes saliva to back up inside its duct, causing your salivary gland to swell. Stagnation of saliva in the gland can lead to infection and inflammation, which can cause severe pain. Symptoms worsen while eating, which stimulates salivary flow. Pain may subside after a few hours. However, some people do not experience any symptoms.

If the stones do not block the duct completely, symptoms can be variable:

  • You may experience occasional dull pain over the affected gland.
  • Gland swelling may be persistent or variable in size.
  • Infection may cause redness, pain, and pus or abscess formation.
  • Some people have no symptoms at all and the presence of a blocked salivary gland may be found on X-ray by chance.

When to Seek Medical Help

See your doctor/dentist if you develop a persistent swelling in your jaw, cheek, neck, hard palate, ortongue. Call your doctor/dentist immediately if your lump is red, tender or painful and is associated with fever and chills.

How to Deal with a Blocked Salivary Gland

For small cysts, no treatment is necessary. However, large cysts may need to be removed by open or laser surgery.

1. Treat Salivary Gland Stones

Most salivary gland stones that cause symptoms do not go away on their own, unless they are small enough to come out into the mouth. Otherwise, the stones need to be removed. Possible treatment options include:

  • Removal by gentle probing with a blunt instrument, which is done by a doctor.
  • Sialendoscopy, a procedure which uses a thin tube (or endoscope) that has a light and camera at the tip. This instrument has a tiny grabber or basket that can pull out the stone. This technique is done under local anaesthesia. If the stone is large, it may be broken up first before the fragments are pulled out.
  • A small incision may be used to cut out the stone if sialendoscopy fails or is not available.
  • Shock wave (lithotripsy) treatment may be done using ultrasound waves to break up large stones. This new treatment has been traditionally used for kidney stones and is not commonlydone with blocked salivary glandstones.

If you don't want to take a medical procedure currently, some natural remedies can help to relieve the discomfort caused by blocked salivary gland. As prevention, you can reduce your risk of developing salivary gland stones by limiting your calcium intake.

  • Apple cider vinegar helps alkalize the body and maintains your pH balance. It may help dissolve the stones as well as other toxic buildup in your body.
  • Lemon juice also helps alkalize your body and restore appropriate pH levels. The sourness of lemon promotes salivation, which may relieve the blockage in the ducts.
  • Oregano oil is a potent antibiotic that can reduce inflammation, kill bacteria and treat infection in the blocked salivary gland.
  • Other simples tips like sucking on sugar-free lemon candies to increase saliva flow; massaging the blocked gland; applying warm compress to the blocked gland; rinsing the mouth with warm salt water, can help a lot.

2. Treatment of Salivary Gland Infection

Antibiotics may be prescribed to treat bacterial infection in the salivary gland. If an abscess is formed, fine needle aspiration may be required to drain the pus. Although uncommon, treatment may involve surgical removal of the salivary gland affected in chronic or recurrent infections.

3. If There's Tumor

  • Benign/Noncancerous tumors are usually removed surgically. Radiation treatment may be given after surgery to prevent tumor recurrence.
  • Malignant tumors can be treated with surgery alone at an early stage. However, large, highly malignant tumors usually require radiation therapy after surgery. Advanced tumors may necessitate chemotherapyorradiation.

4. Treat Underlying Medical Condition

A blocked salivary gland may refer to certain medical conditions as well, including Sialadenosis and Sjogren's syndrome. Sialadenosis usually refers to the enlargement of salivary gland (commonly the parotid gland), which is non-inflammatory and non-neoplastic. Treatment is directed towards the medical condition, which usually leads to shrinking of the salivary glands to normal size.

Sjogren's syndrome is characterized by a dry mouth. Patients are required to stop smoking and keep good oral hygiene. Sugarless gum or candy can help to increase saliva production. Also, some medications can be used like pilocarpine or cevimeline to stimulate saliva production, yet avoid those medications that make mouth dry.

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