Salivary gland infections (sialadenitis) cause inflammation and discomfort that may take days or weeks to resolve. Infection can affect one salivary gland or multiple glands. The most commonly affected glands are those in the cheeks and those just under the jaw. This health condition may resolve on its own or respond to home remedies and medical treatment. Serious complications are rare, but it’s always a good idea to check with your dentist or doctor if symptoms persist or become worse.

What Causes Salivary Gland Infections?

Sialadenitis can be caused by either viruses or bacteria. Mumps and flu are the two most common viral infections that cause inflammation of the salivary glands. Staph and strep are most commonly associated with bacterial infection of these glands. Poor oral hygiene, dehydration and a stressed immune system may be contributing factors. Salivary gland stones (hard bits of crystallized minerals stuck in the salivary ducts) are sometimes to blame for infection. They prevent the free flow of saliva and help create an environment where too much bacteria flourishes in the mouth.

What Are the Symptoms of Salivary Gland Infections?

Dry mouth is a common warning sign of infected salivary glands. As the glands become inflamed, the production of saliva may be hampered. If the ducts are obstructed, this limits the flow of saliva into the mouth. Healthy levels of saliva production are necessary for keeping oral bacteria in check. So, dry mouth can actually be both a contributing risk factor for salivary gland infections and a result of infection.

Facial swelling is a classic symptom of sialadenitis. Viral infections make the glands swell symmetrically on each side of the face or jaw. Bacterial infections usually affect one side more than the other. The swollen gland can usually be felt as a hard lump that is tender to the touch. Swelling often causes pain and discomfort that can spread throughout the face and neck. The skin over the gland may be pink or reddish since blood rushes to the area to fight infection.

Bacterial infection may cause pus to collect in the salivary glands. When this pus oozes out into the mouth, it can make your mouth taste foul. Viral infections are often accompanied by flu-like symptoms including fever, achiness and fatigue. Severe sialadenitis may interfere with eating or breathing.

How Are Salivary Gland Infections Treated?

Viral infections usually resolve without intensive medical intervention. Staying hydrated, keeping fever under control and getting plenty of rest is the best cure in these situations. If severe dehydration has set in, IV fluids may be given to prevent serious complications. Most patients recover in a week to 10 days depending on the type of virus involved.

Bacterial sialadenitis usually responds to oral antibiotics like clindamycin. If there is a blockage in the duct (such as a cyst or a stone), this may need to be removed surgically. If pus is accumulating, it may have to be drained. However, most patients simply need to follow self-care instructions to relieve symptoms while the antibiotics do their work. Anti-inflammatory medications, saltwater rinses, hot compresses and massage offer relief. You’ll also want to help your salivary glands produce more spit. Drink plenty of water (no caffeine) and suck on sour candy to stimulate saliva. Brush and floss thoroughly each day to keep oral bacteria to a minimum. Bacterial infection should start getting better within a couple of days once you start taking antibiotics. Full recovery may take a week or two. If you have a problem with recurring salivary gland infections, this can be a symptom of an underlying health condition that needs to be addressed.