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Salivary gland infection – symptoms, causes, risk factors & complications

When a bacterial or viral infection affects your salivary gland or duct, then the salivary gland infection happens. This infection can happen from a reduced saliva flow which can be due to inflammation or blockage of the salivary duct. This condition is also known as sialadenitis. We know that the saliva aids digestion, works to keep the mouth clean and breaks down food.

It washes away food parasites and bacteria. Also it can help to control the amount of good and bad bacteria in the mouth. When your saliva does not freely travel throughout your mouth, then fewer bacteria and food particles are washed away and this could lead to infection. We have 3 pairs of major (large) salivary glands. These salivary glands are located on each side of your face. The largest salivary glands are parotid glands and they are located inside each cheek. They are located above the jaw in the front of the ears. Parotitis is a condition when one or more of these glands are infected.


Salivary gland infection  

It is known fact that the symptoms of salivary gland infection can mimic the symptoms of other conditions. Here are some symptoms of salivary gland infection:

  • Signs of infection, such as fever or chills
  • Swelling of your face or neck
  • You can have redness or swelling over your jaw in front of your ears, below your jaw, or on the bottom of your mouth
  • Face pain
  • Pain in your mouth
  • Dry mouth
  • Pus in your mouth
  • Pain or discomfort when opening your mouth or eating
  • Inability to fully open your mouth
  • Frequently having abnormal or foul taste in your mouth

All of these symptoms can indicate that you have a salivary gland infection. You need to talk with your doctor to get the proper diagnosis. If you experience trouble breathing or swallowing, a high fever or worsening symptoms, then you should talk with your doctor as soon as possible because your symptoms may required emergency treatment.


The bacterial infection is a cause for salivary gland infection. The most common cause of salivary gland infection is the Staphylococcus aureus. Also there can be other causes of salivary gland infection, such as

  • Escherichia coli
  • Streptococcus pyogenes
  • Haemophilus influenzae
  • Streptococcus viridians

All of the mentioned infections can result from the reduced saliva production. In many cases, this is caused by a blockage or inflammation of the salivary gland duct. Also viruses and other medical conditions can reduce the saliva production, such as

  • Inadequate oral hygiene
  • Radiation cancer treatment of the head and neck
  • Malnutrition
  • Dehydration
  • This is a condition in which patches of inflammation occur throughout the body.
  • Sjorgen’s syndrome, an autoimmune condition that causes dry mouth
  • A tumor
  • A salivary duct blocked by mucus
  • A salivary stone
  • Herpes
  • Influenza A and parainfluenza types I and II
  • HIV
  • Mumps, a contagious viral infection that is common among children who have not been immunized

Risk factors

Here are some factors which can increase your risk of getting salivary gland infection:

  • Not being immunized against mumps
  • Having inadequate oral hygiene
  • Being over age 65

Also there are some chronic conditions which can increase your risk of getting salivary gland infection, such as

  • Xerostomia, or dry mouth syndrome
  • Bulimia
  • Alcoholism
  • Malnutrition
  • Diabetes
  • Sjorgen’s syndrome
  • AIDS
  • HIV


The salivary gland infection is not so common disorder. If you leave this infection untreated, then the pus can collect and it can form an abscess in the salivary gland. Also the salivary gland infection can be caused by a benign tumor which can cause enlargement of the glands. Cancerous (malignant) tumors can grow quickly and they can cause loss of movement in the affected side of the face.

This can affect all area or just one part. When in some people parotitis happens again, then the severe swelling of the neck can destroy the affected glands. Also you can have complications if the initial bacterial infection spreads from the salivary glands to the other parts of your body. This can include a bacterial skin infection called Ludwig’s angina or cellulitis, which is a form of cellulitis that happens in the bottom of the mouth.

Ramesh Kumar
Ramesh Kumar
Dr. Ramesh kumar, BAMS is naturopathy doctor who is well versed with health benefits of all fruits, vegetables and medicinal plants


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