Salivary Gland Infection

Salivary glands make saliva. Saliva is mostly water. It also has minerals and proteins that help break down food and keep the mouth and teeth healthy. There are 3 pairs of salivary glands:

  • Parotid glands. In front of the ear.

  • Submandibular glands. Below the jaw.

  • Sublingual glands. Below the tongue.

A salivary gland can become infected by germs (bacteria). Things that make this more likely include dehydration and taking medicines that affect saliva flow. Infection is also more likely when the tube (duct) that carries saliva from the gland to the mouth is blocked. It may be blocked by a salivary gland stone. This is a collection of minerals that forms in the salivary gland.

Symptoms of infection include fever, severe pain in the gland, and redness and swelling over the gland. It may hurt to open your mouth. Symptoms may be worse when saliva flow is stimulated, such as by the smell of food. 

Antibiotics are used to treat the infection. Draining the infection with a simple surgery may be needed. If you have a salivary gland stone, a procedure may be done to remove it.

Home care

  • Take antibiotics as directed until they are finished. Do this even if you start to feel better after only a few days.

  • Unless another medicine was prescribed, take over-the-counter medicines to help ease pain. These include acetaminophen or ibuprofen.

  • Moist heat can also help ease swelling and pain. Wet a cloth with warm water and put it over the sore gland for 10 to 15 minutes several times a day.

  • Gently massage the gland a few times a day. 

  • Suck on lemon or other tart hard candies to make saliva flow.

To help prevent stones and infections:

  • Drink 6 to 8 glasses of fluid per day (such as water, tea, and clear soup) to keep well-hydrated.

  • If you smoke, ask your healthcare provider for help to quit. Smoking makes salivary gland stones more likely.

  • Keep good dental hygiene. Brush and floss your teeth daily. See your dentist for regular cleanings.

Follow-up care

Follow up with your healthcare provider, or as advised. 

When to call your healthcare provider

Call your healthcare provider if any of the following occur:

  • Fever over 100.4°F (38ºC) after 2 days of taking antibiotics

  • Symptoms that get worse or don't get better in a few days

Call 911

Call 911 if you have trouble breathing or swallowing.

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