3 Potential Causes For Salivary Gland Swelling

Salivary glands line your mouth and produce saliva via ducts. The glands are located in pairs near the rear of your mouth inside the cheeks, under your tongue, and near your lower jaw so that your mouth remains well and evenly lubricated. Saliva plays important roles in keeping your teeth clean and strong, maintaining oral bacteria, and making chewing and swallowing comfortable. But swelling in the salivary glands can impede the production of saliva and lead to increased infections, cavities, and dryness.

Here are there of the potential causes for salivary gland swelling and how your dentist can help with the problem.


Saliva has special chemical properties that help improve your oral health. But those same properties make it possible for saliva to crystallize and buildup within the gland to form a stone. Swelling is one of the most common symptoms of a stone but you can have a stone for some time before swelling does take place.  

Minor stones will normally break up and flush out on their own. More severe stones might require manual removal at the hands of a dentist. A surgical procedure might be required if the stone is especially large or positioned in such a way that it won't pull straight out.

If you're experiencing severe dry mouth along with the stone, your dentist might also prescribe a temporary saliva replacement fluid until your natural production returns to normal.


An infection can take hold in the salivary gland due to a general bacterial infection in your body or as a response to a stone blockage. Infection can worsen the swelling of a stone-blocked gland or swell an otherwise clear gland. You will likely taste a pus-like fluid coming out of the gland if the stone isn't completely blocking output.

Your dentist will want to treat the underlying infection with an antibiotic before any further treatment is done to the gland. Once the swelling and infection subside, the stone can then be removed or left to dissolve on its own.

Leaving a gland infection untreated can risk spreading the infection throughout your mouth where it can cause damage to your gums and teeth.


Mumps is a type of viral infection that can cause salivary gland swelling. This infection was largely eradicated through the use of vaccines but a sub-cultural shift away from vaccines has increased the number of mumps cases. There is also the small chance that someone who received the mumps vaccine will still get the infection.

Salivary swelling is one of the telltale but late-appearing symptoms of mumps. Prior symptoms can seem like the 'flu and include fever, fatigue, and headaches. Mumps has no cure and patients must simply wait for the infection to leave the body on its own.

The wide range of causes for salivary gland swelling – from minor stones to severe mumps – makes it clear that proper diagnosis is essential. Visiting the dentist as soon as swelling appears can help you learn of any underlying conditions and receive treatment to get the problem to disappear faster.