A salivary gland infection is definitely not a fun experience. Any gland in the body can become infected, and if bacteria invades the salivary glands, this nasty condition can result. Symptoms of this condition include strange tastes in the mouth (mainly from the myriad of bacteria which accompanies an infection), dryness in the mouth, swelling where there are salivary glands around the mouth, fever, facial pain, and limited ability to open the jaw.
There are both bacteria and viruses which can result in salivary gland infections. The most painful infections are ones which are caused by bacteria. These are the ones which can result in fever, pus, and extreme discomfort. A viral infection which typically has an effect on salivary glands is mumps, which much of the population is now immune to thanks to vaccinations.
Since salivary glands have ducts which open when saliva is needed in the mouth to aid with the chewing of food, there is always the possibility that bacteria present in the mouth could enter into these salivary ducts. If this happens, an infection could result within a day or so. The bacteria can inflame the tissue within the salivary gland and cause extreme pain. Multiple glands could be affected by bacteria if there was a large amount present in the mouth at the time it reached the gland.
Oftentimes, a salivary gland can become infected if there is something obstructing the gland. There are objects which can form in these glands known as “salivary duct stones.” Many people are not aware of this, but saliva can crystallize into small stones if the conditions are right. Over time, these can block salivary glands and cause them to be more likely to become swollen and infected.
Bad oral hygiene can also lead to salivary gland infections. If you are not brushing your teeth enough, there are usually more bacteria present in the mouth. The more bacteria that are in the mouth, the more likely some of that bacteria is to enter the salivary glands and start an infection.
There are sometimes cases of salivary gland infections which clear up on their own without treatment. This really depends on the extent of the infection, as well as the immune system of the patient. If a patient has a weakened immune system (such as in AIDS patients), infections could take much longer to clear up.
A doctor may prescribe antibiotics for severe cases of salivary gland infections. Since antibiotics help the immune system fight off bacterial infections and not viral ones, it is important for a doctor to be able to distinguish between the symptoms of a viral and bacterial salivary gland infection, If antibiotics are prescribed and there is a viral and not a bacterial salivary gland infection, any bacteria which may be present in a patient’s body could become more resistant to the antibiotic which was prescribed. If the patient has an infection in the future, it could then be more difficult to treat as a result. If doctors prescribe antibiotics too much in this society, antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria could develop.