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When Salivary Glands Get Infected

Healthy salivary glands — the glands in your mouth that produce saliva — protect your teeth against decay. They also make it possible for you to chew, swallow, and digest food.

Sometimes the salivary glands can become infected with bacteria or a virus. This condition is known as sialadenitis.

Signs of an Infection

Infected salivary glands can cause a wide range of symptoms. These include:

  • Fever
  • Dry mouth
  • A bad taste in the mouth
  • Mouth pain, especially during eating
  • Swelling in front of the ears, on the floor of the mouth, or below the jaw

See your dentist or doctor if you think you may have a salivary gland infection.

Treating an Infection

If a salivary gland becomes infected, in some cases no treatment is needed.

Treatment from your health care provider may include:

  • X-ray studies to see if there are stones (sialoliths) blocking the salivary ducts
  • Antibiotics may be prescribed if you have a fever or pus drainage
  • Surgery to remove a stone blocking a salivary duct or aspiration to drain an abscess if you have one

Self-care steps you can take at home include:

  • Practice good oral hygiene. Brush your teeth and floss well at least twice a day. This may help with healing and prevent an infection from spreading.
  • Don’t smoke; it slows healing.
  • Rinse your mouth with a solution made from one cup of warm water and a half teaspoon of salt. This keeps your mouth from getting too dry.
  • Drink lots of water and use sugar-free lemon drops to increase the flow of saliva and reduce swelling.
  • Massage the affected gland with heat.
  • Call your doctor or dentist right away if you have trouble swallowing or if your symptoms become worse.

To prevent future problems, keep up your good oral hygiene habits and see your dentist twice a year.

“Dry Mouth.” National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, National Institutes of Health, October 2012. www.nidcr.nih.gov/OralHealth/Topics/DryMouth/DryMouth.htm. Accessed 2013.

“Salivary Gland Infections.” U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health. February 28, 2011. www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/001041.htm. Accessed 2013.

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