Early detection is important when it comes to managing benign salivary disorders.
Non-cancerous conditions can affect any of the main salivary glands in the cheeks, mouth, and tongue along with the hundreds of minor salivary glands. These glands are important because they produce the lubrication that’s necessary to carry out functions such as:
Dehydration and the fact that the production of saliva is working against gravity may contribute to the formation of crystallized saliva deposits, which could cause noticeable swelling, tenderness, and discomfort in the affected area. Treatment of this benign disorder typically involves increasing hydration and massaging the gland. In some cases, a procedure called a sialodendoscopy may be done to view the stones and break them up with a laser.
Dehydration can make it easier for bacterial or viral infections to develop within salivary glands. Staph or strep bacteria and stones blocking salivary glands may result in a sialadenitis infection. Salivary glands can also be affected by viral conditions such as influenza, mumps, and echovirus. Salivary gland infections are usually treated with antibiotics. Recurrent infections may require surgery to remove the affected gland.
Fluid-filled sacs called cysts sometimes form on salivary glands. There may not be any symptoms when cysts are present. Other times, these abnormal sacs might contribute to the production of a yellow mucus that appears while brushing teeth. Some patients may also have difficulty swallowing, speaking, and eating. Most cysts are benign, although some may be cancerous.
More common in women with autoimmune disorders and people over age 40, Sjogren’s syndrome is a condition where white blood cells, which normally protect against infection, target healthy cells in salivary glands. Persistent coughing, fatigue, and dry mouth are the symptoms often associated with this disorder. Other glands may also be affected. Treatment usually involves managing symptoms.
Benign Salivary Tumors
The most common type of non-cancerous salivary tumor, pleomorphic adenomas usually start in the parotid gland. Older adults are at an increased risk of developing oncocytoma, a rare benign salivary gland tumor. Male smokers are more likely to develop Warthin’s tumor. Benign salivary tumors may also be seen in the oral cavity or in submandibular glands.
Diagnosis and Treatment of Benign Salivary Gland Disorders
An ear, nose, and throat doctor may recommend image tests and blood tests to identify affected tissues and determine if a disorder is related to an infection. Treatment will depend on the type of disorder involved and the symptoms experienced. Gland blockages may be removed with endoscopic procedures. Conservative treatments may be recommended to address mouth dryness and similar symptoms. Suggestions may also be made on ways to improve oral hygiene to minimize symptoms. With tumors, a fine needle aspiration biopsy is often done to determine if the growth is benign or malignant (cancerous).
Difficulty swallowing, facial swelling, dry mouth, and mouth or jaw pain are among the symptoms that could suggest something is going on with your salivary glands. Underlying conditions like diabetes can also affect salivary glands and influence the severity of the symptoms experienced with certain conditions. Early detection and treatment can make it easier to resolve or manage benign conditions that may affect salivary glands.