Salivary gland pathologies are a group of conditions affecting the salivary glands and saliva production. These glands are located around the mouth and throat and are responsible for producing and secreting saliva into the oral cavity, which helps to lubricate and digest food.

There are several types of salivary glands, such as the parotid, submandibular and sublingual glands, and their pathologies can have varying effects on the body.

The causes of salivary gland pathologies are diverse and can be caused by congenital factors, infections, inflammation, tumors and trauma to the glands. Among the most common salivary gland pathologies are sialadenitis, sialolithiasis and salivary gland tumors.

Sialadenitis is inflammation of the salivary glands and can be acute or chronic.

The causes of this condition can be diverse, such as bacterial or viral infections, trauma and drugs that reduce saliva flow. Symptoms include pain, swelling and redness of the glands, fever and difficulty opening the mouth or swallowing.

Sialolithiasis refers to the presence of stones or calculi in the salivary glands, which can obstruct the flow of saliva and cause inflammation and pain. These stones are usually made up of calcium salts and can be removed by massaging the affected gland or by surgery.

Salivary gland tumors are usually benign, but can also be malignant. They can occur in any of the salivary glands and can be symptomatic or asymptomatic.

Symptoms include swelling or pain in the affected area, difficulty opening the mouth or swallowing, and loss of hearing or taste.

Diagnosis of salivary gland pathology usually involves physical examination of the affected gland, blood tests and X-rays. In some cases, biopsy of the affected gland may be necessary to confirm the diagnosis.

Treatment of salivary gland pathologies depends on the type and severity of the condition.

Treatment for sialadenitis may include anti-inflammatory drugs, antibiotics and adequate hydration.

In the case of sialolithiasis, treatment may consist of massage of the affected gland, surgery or extraction of the stones through a tube inserted into the gland. For salivary gland tumors, treatment may include removal of the affected gland and radiotherapy or chemotherapy, depending on the type of tumor and stage of the disease.

Salivary glands possess exocrine secretion, the contents of which are shed into cavities.

At the oral level, there are several pairs of salivary glands, the most representative being the major ones, i.e. submandibular, parotid and sublingual.

Together they produce the main amount of saliva found in the oral cavity.

Saliva is a liquid substance composed mainly of water, the rest being elements that give it viscosity, which participate in the primary digestion of food, enzymes or antibacterial action.

Saliva softens food, forms the food bowl and starts the process of physical and chemical digestion. It is also important in removing bacteria from dental surfaces by washing them away and protecting them by creating films.

Pathologies occurring in the salivary glands can manifest themselves in different ways, thus we can distinguish:

  • swelling – a common feature of all salivary gland diseases. Whether it is an infection or obstruction of the salivary gland duct, it always reacts by swelling.

  • pain – associated with infectious and obstructive lesions.

  • painless enlargement – immunological conditions such as Sjogren’s syndrome and neoplasia. Malignant tumors are hard in consistency but painless and may be associated with facial nerve paralysis, by compression or invasion.

  • soft, fluctuating swelling is characteristic of benign salivary gland disorders.

Types of salivary gland disease

Mucoceles – represent a retention cyst of the small salivary glands. The cause of this salivary accumulation is mucus in the connective tissue, secondary to injury to a salivary duct.

The mucocele usually occurs secondary to a minor trauma and its size progressively increases in the days following the trauma. The lesion usually disappears within a few days but there is an increased chance of recurrence.

It can occur at any age and most commonly occurs on the tongue, the floor or the jugal mucosa. It is bluish-white in color and round in shape.

The mucocele located on the buccal floor, under the tongue, is known as a ranula. It has a deeper, bluish color, is soft to the touch and varies in size.

It is harmless as long as it does not affect vital structures. For example, if it makes breathing difficult, the butterfly is life-threatening. Both the mucocele and the ranula are treated by surgical excision.

Sialolithiasis is the presence of one or more calcified structures, i.e. salivary calculi in the path of a duct.

They are round or oval in shape and in the vast majority of cases are found in the major salivary glands.

Depending on their size, they manifest themselves differently. While small salivary stones are asymptomatic, larger ones may cause pain, pressure or a stinging sensation.

They also cause swelling in the area where they are lodged.

The intensity of the pain increases when the salivary glands are stimulated to secrete, for example during meals.

Endemic parotitis, popularly known as mumps, is damage to the parotid gland by Paramyxovirus.

As an endemic disease, widespread in communities and contagious, it mainly affects children. The parotid gland swells bilaterally and pain occurs, especially during chewing.

Treatment is symptomatic and aims to relieve the general condition with analgesics, antipyretics, rest and adequate hydration.

Some salivary gland pathologies can be prevented by maintaining proper oral hygiene and avoiding habits that can irritate the salivary glands, such as smoking and excessive alcohol consumption. It is also important to have regular check-ups with your dentist for early detection of conditions.

In conclusion, salivary gland diseases are a group of conditions that can have a significant impact on patients’ health and quality of life. It is important to identify and treat these conditions as early as possible to minimize complications and improve patient prognosis.

In addition, preventing these conditions by maintaining proper oral hygiene and avoiding risk factors can help maintain salivary gland health and the patient’s overall health.

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