Salivary Gland Disease

Salivary Gland Disease

Salivary Gland Disease

There are 3 paired (6 total) major salivary glands located in the face (parotid glands), under the jaw (submandibular glands), and under the tongue (sublingual glands).  In addition, there are hundreds of tiny “minor” salivary glands which line the mouth and throat. Salivary glands produce saliva which is transported through salivary ducts into openings in the mouth.  Saliva has several important duties.  It moistens our mouth, helps digest our food, and helps to prevent dental decay.  Unfortunately, salivary glands are also a source of several common medical disorders.

Salivary Gland Tumors

Salivary tumors can occur in any of the salivary glands, including the parotid, submandibular, sublingual, and minor salivary glands.  Patients most commonly experience a painless, growing lump under the chin, on the side of the face, or in the mouth.  Salivary gland tumors can be either malignant or benign.

Benign Salivary Tumors

Benign salivary tumors are very common.  The most common type (called pleomorphic adenoma) can affect patients of any age and possess no recognized risk factors.  Surgical removal of these tumors is generally recommended in order to prevent their further growth.  This is usually performed through small incisions just in front of the ear or under the chin.  Generally no additional therapy is needed. 

Salivary Gland Cancer

Salivary Gland Cancers are much less common and are generally treated at specialized cancer centers.  Follow the above link to learn more about Salivary Gland Cancers and to explore our multi-disciplinary team of radiation oncologists, medical oncologists, and surgeons who have dedicated their career to helping patients with Salivary Gland Cancer.

Salivary Gland Obstruction

Blockage of a salivary duct can cause severe discomfort.  A blocked salivary gland will cause severe facial swelling/pain and frequently results in salivary gland infection.  These episodes are initially treated with antibiotics but episodes frequently recur. 
These salivary blockages are usually caused by salivary stones or salivary strictures (narrowing in the salivary ducts).  Salivary stones and strictures usually require a surgical procedure to alleviate the obstruction or to remove the gland altogether.  Alternatively, a new incision-less, minimalily invasive technique has been developed: Sialoendoscopy.


Sialoendoscopy is a minimally invasive surgical technique that allows for the safe and effective treatment of salivary stones, salivary strictures, and chronic salivary infection.  During a sialoendoscopy procedure a small camera is placed into the salivary ducts.  Using the small surgical instruments (snares, balloons, and lasers) salivary gland obstructions, strictures, and salivary stones can be treated.

While this technique is not feasible for every patient, for a large portion of patients sialoendoscopy will reduce the need for larger open procedures.  Thus, sialoendoscopy has the potential to reduce procedure time, requires no incisions, and significantly reduces patient’s after procedure discomfort.

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