Everyone has three pairs of salivary glands located in various positions in the mouth that produce our saliva: the parotid, submandibular and sublingual glands. Saliva is important in a number of ways. It moistens our food so we can swallow more easily; it cleans the teeth and mouth; it assists in lubricating the mouth so we can speak; and it contains antibodies that boost our immune system. There are also accessory salivary glands throughout the mouth whose production is similar to that of the main glands.
If one or more of the salivary glands fails to produce saliva or cannot secrete saliva, our normal function is compromised. Certain diseases can affect the salivary glands by reducing the production of saliva and causing dry mouth. Growths, either cancerous or benign, can develop in a gland. If a gland’s ducts rupture or it becomes obstructed, the saliva can pool up in one spot and present as swelling.
It’s important to maintain regular check-ups, which should also include specifying any symptoms or change in salivary function. Early detection can prevent loss of function or loss of the use of the compromised glands.