Salivary Gland Infection


A salivary gland infection may be caused by a bacterial or viral infection, which can lead to reduced saliva flow. If the salivary glands are unable to produce the normal amount of saliva, fewer bacteria and food particles are washed away, increasing the risk of infection.


The following symptoms may indicate a salivary gland infection:

  • A constant abnormal or foul taste in the mouth
  • Inability to fully open the mouth
  • Discomfort or pain when opening the mouth or eating
  • Pus in the mouth
  • Dry mouth
  • Pain in the mouth and face
  • Redness or swelling of the jaw in front of the ears, below the jaw, or on the bottom of the mouth
  • Swollen face or neck
  • Signs of infection, such as fever or chills

Left untreated, a salivary gland infection may lead to:

  • Pus collecting and forming an abscess in the salivary gland
  • Enlarged glands
  • Loss of movement in the affected side of the face
  • Severe swelling of the neck, which may destroy the affected glands
  • Bacterial skin infection called cellulitis or Ludwig’s angina


A salivary gland infection may be caused by the following bacteria:

  • Staphylococcus aureus
  • Streptococcus viridans
  • Haemophilus influenzae
  • Streptococcus pyogenes
  • Escherichia coli

An individual may be at increased risk of developing a salivary gland infection if the salivary gland duct is blocked or inflamed.

Other causes of salivary gland infections include:

  • Mumps
  • HIV
  • Influenza A and parainfluenza types I and II
  • Herpes
  • A salivary stone
  • A salivary duct blocked by mucus
  • A tumor
  • Sarcoidosis
  • Dehydration
  • Malnutrition
  • Radiation cancer treatment of the head and neck
  • Sjogren’s syndrome
  • Poor oral hygiene

Risk Factors

The following factors may increase an individual’s risk of developing a salivary gland infection:

  • Age — over 65
  • Poor oral hygiene
  • Lack of immunization against mumps

Chronic conditions may also increase the risk of a salivary gland infection:

  • Alcoholism
  • HIV
  • AIDS
  • Diabetes
  • Sjogren’s syndrome
  • Malnutrition
  • Bulimia
  • Xerostomia, or dry mouth syndrome

Diagnosing Salivary Gland Infection

During the initial visit, the doctor will examine the affected area and check for pus or pain. The physician may need to order an ultrasound, MRI scan or a CT scan to analyze a salivary gland infection caused by an abscess, tumor or salivary stone. A biopsy may be necessary to test tissue or fluid for bacteria or viruses.

Treatment Options

Depending on the severity of the salivary gland infection, patients may treat their condition at home by:

  • Drinking eight to 10 glasses of water with lemon every day to stimulate saliva and keep glands clear
  • Massaging the affected gland
  • Applying warm compresses to the affected gland
  • Rinsing their mouth with warm salt water
  • Sucking on sour lemons or sugar-free lemon candy to encourage saliva flow and reduce swelling

Patients may need to take antibiotics to treat a fever, bacterial infection or pus. In addition, patients may need a fine needle aspiration to drain an abscess.

If patients have chronic or recurring infections, surgery may be necessary to remove part or all of the parotid salivary gland or the submandibular salivary gland.