Salivary glands are a group of glandular masses that are present in and around the oral cavity. These glands are responsible for producing the saliva which helps in the digestion process. Any abnormality can lead to a wide variety of hygiene and digestion issues. One of the most frequently reported condition is blocked salivary gland that is seen in the setting of stone formation within the glands. This stone formation obstructs the flow of saliva and makes the saliva accumulate culminating in the painful swelling. Based on the statistics, submandibular glands, located in the floor of the mouth, is most frequently involved when compared to parotid gland, located behind the cheek bone, or sublingual glands, which are located under tongue.
What Causes Blocked Salivary Glands?
In most scenarios, stones that cause glandular obstruction or blockage are formed by the deposition of calcium and other salts within the gland matrix. The size of the stone usually vary from 1mm-10mm. Although smaller stones can cause obstruction in the salivary flow, they may not interfere with the salivary production process. People over 40 years old are more prone to develop salivary gland blockade.
Risk Factors of Blocked Salivary Gland
Any trauma or harm to the salivary glands increases the risk of salivary stones. Improper eating habits, such as quitting meals or not having food decreases the saliva production. Other notable risk factors include:
- Low intake of water or constant or prolonged exposure to sun can lead to dehydration that usually accelerates the process of the formation of calcium crystals in the salivary glands;
- Diseased condition or health related issues such as anxiety, depression; HIV may result in gland obstruction and stone formation;
- Medicines, like anti-depressants decrease the production of saliva which leads to the production of stones;
- Oral and throat surgeries increase the chance of salivary gland blockade due to ongoing inflammation.
How Do I Know If I Have Blocked Salivary Gland?
Some people with salivary gland blockage may not show any symptoms. In many cases it is discovered incidentally on x-ray picture done for some other reasons, but for others there may be specific symptoms, depending largely on the severity of the condition. The symptoms of blocked salivary gland include:
- Dry mouth;
- Difficulty in chewing and swallowing in food;
- Bad breath (due to dry mouth);
- Redness, pain and formation of pus (due to infection);
- Swelling and generalized pain while opening the mouth and eating;
How to Diagnose Blocked Salivary Gland
Salivary duct stones are diagnosed by examination of head and neck. The doctor will check your head and neck for the swollen salivary glands and if stones are present. More accurate diagnosis is done by imaging studies. The doctor may order an ultrasound, x-ray or CT (computed tomography) scan for better analysis of stone, which combines multiple X-rays into one cross-sectional detailed image.
Deal With Blocked Salivary Glands
Blocked salivary gland does not endanger your life. It is likely that your symptoms can resolve completely with home remedies or after medical treatment.
1. Home Remedies for Blocked Salivary Gland
There are some home remedies for your blocked salivary gland:
- Avoid dehydration
The most important thing is to optimize your daily water intake. Drinking sufficient water decreases the chance of developing salivary stones by minimizing the risk of dryness in oral cavity which usually escalates stone formation. Besides Avoiding excessive sun exposure also lowers the risk of dehydration.
- Try salt water
Salt water has been used for centuries to relieve pain and swelling. Take warm salt water, swish it in your mouth and then spit it out. Do this procedure with at least one glass of water and repeat for 3-4 times a day. This will help in eliminating the pain and swelling and opening the blocked salivary gland.
- Apply warm compresses
Gentle application of heat and massaging on the affected area or applying a warm compress below the mandibles and behind the ear helps in increasing the flow of saliva, relieving from pain and swelling and removing the stones.
- Ginger soup
Prepare soup by mixing ginger, turmeric, black pepper and chili. Add boiling water and salt to taste. The soup not only boosts immunity but also lessen the painful sensation. Ginger tea is also proved as a good remedy for treating pain, as well as inflammation and swelling caused by the blockage.
Here is a video to learn another home remedy to treat blocked salivary gland by facilitating salivary production:
2. Medical Treatments for Blocked Salivary Glands
If home remedies fail to resolve the blocked salivary glands or if your symptoms worsen, then you should seek medical care to solve the problem. Here are some suggestions:
- Antibiotics: If there is a bacterial infection present in the gland or the cavity due to swelling or inflammation, then the doctor will prescribe you antibiotics.
- Incision: If the stones are small in size then they can be removed by applying pressure from both sides via small incision.
- Sialendoscopy: In difficult cases, the stones are broken down into small pieces in order to facilitate easy removal from the ducts. Since this procedure utilizes high energy sound waves, the patient is anaesthetized in advance.
- Surgery: If the stones are relatively large, then the doctor will remove the stones by performing surgery. Because this is not the only gland that produces saliva so if it is removed, there will still be 2 glands remaining that will produce enough saliva. But before going for the surgery please consult to your doctor as these surgeries involve nerves that control facial movements.
Our oral cavity imparts a great importance in maintaining our health; any problem related to it disrupts our normal routine. If you experience any symptoms of blocked salivary gland, then you should take better care of yourself and seek doctor' advice.