A salivary gland is the tissue in our mouths that expels saliva.
Saliva is a mixture of water, mucus, antibacterial substance, and digestive enzymes. Salivary glands expel saliva into the epithelial surface of our mouths through ducts. Each day, our glands produce as much as a quart of saliva.
Saliva is helpful in creating the food bolus, or the finely packed ball of food that we roll inside our mouths.
The three major pairs of salivary glands, each is named after the area in the oral cavity in which it is located:
There are also several hundred minor salivary glands throughout the mouth and throat.
Different problems can interfere with the function of the salivary glands or block the ducts so they can’t drain saliva.The symptoms that may signal a compromised salivary gland include gland swelling, fever, a foul taste in the mouth, and dry mouth.
Salivary stone or build-up of crystalized saliva can cause swollen glands; in this case the ducts are blocked and clog the gland from releasing saliva. This causes pain, and unless the blockage is cleared it can infect the gland, your dentist or doctor helps you to open the ducts.
The most common salivary gland infection in children is mumps, which involves the parotid glands. While this is most common in children who have not been immunized, it can occur in adults. However, if an adult has swelling in the area of the parotid gland only on one side, it is more likely due to an obstruction or a tumour.
There are many types of benign salivary gland tumours such as adenomas, oncocytomas, Warthin tumours, and benign mixed tumours. Benign tumours are almost always cured by surgery. Very rarely, they may become cancer if left untreated for a long time or if they are not completely removed and grow back.
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