Salivary Gland Disorders

Authored by Dr Mary Harding, 04 Jul 2017

Patient is a certified member of
The Information Standard

Reviewed by:
Prof Cathy Jackson, 04 Jul 2017

We have a number of salivary glands and they are all situated around the mouth. This is because - and the clue is in the name - their job is to produce saliva.

Where are my salivary glands and what do they do?

There are three main salivary glands, which come as a pair with one of each on each side of the face:

  • The parotid glands - situated just in front of your ear.
  • The submandibular glands - situated under your jaw line.
  • The sublingual glands - situated under your tongue.

There are also a whole load of much smaller salivary glands dotted around your mouth. Tubes (ducts) carry the saliva from the gland into your mouth. And the point of saliva? It is the spit or liquid in your mouth which:

  • Keeps it lubricated.
  • Helps with speech.
  • Helps with chewing and the start of the process of digesting your food.
  • Protects your teeth.

What kind of problems might they give me?

There are a number of conditions involving the salivary glands which might cause symptoms. The common ones are:

  • Infections. Mumps is the most common of these and usually involves an infection of your parotid glands, giving you a chubby-cheeked hamster face for a week or so.
  • Stones. Stones can block the ducts, causing swelling of the gland behind them.
  • Tumours. These can be cancerous or non-cancerous. Most tumours of salivary glands are NOT cancer.
  • Overgrowth of the gland caused by other illnesses in your body.

Further reading and references

My enlarged parotid gland, i am told, is benign but I have been attending ENT now for over two years and want this unsightly lump removed.   The hospital have hinted that this would be a cosmetic...

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