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Sialadenitis is an infection of the salivary glands. Sialadenitis typically presents with inflammation of one or more of the salivary glands. There are three pairs (six) salivary glands: the large parotid glands of the cheek, the submandibular glands of the lower jaw and the sublingual glands under the tongue. The function of the salivary glands is to produce saliva and secrete it into the oral cavity through ducts.

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Sialadenitis can either be a chronic infection or an acute infection, and it can be caused by bacterial or viral agents. Infection with mumps, a virus, is a common cause of sialadenitis. Sialadenitis can also be caused by autoimmune diseases, bacterial infection from poor oral hygienic practices and the formation of salivary stones. Besides swelling of the salivary glands, other symptoms of sialadenitis include dry mouth, fever, pain, foul tastes in the mouth and redness and swelling of the affected side of the face.

How is Sialadenitis Diagnosed?

When a person is experiencing symptoms from sialadenitis, they may go to a doctor or a dentist for diagnosis and treatment. The doctor will take a medical history of the patient and perform a clinical examination as the first step in the diagnostic process. A patient with sialadenitis will have salivary glands that are swollen to the touch during a clinical examination. A doctor may take saliva or blood samples for laboratory tests to check for a bacterial or viral infection. If the infection involves the formation of pus, this may be tested for the presence of bacteria. Medical imaging procedures, such as a CT scan, may also be used to visualize the enlarged salivary glands.

Misdiagnosis and Delayed Treatment

If the infection is bacterial, antibiotics will be prescribed, but antibiotics do not work on viral infections. Treatment for sialadenitis is not always necessary. However, in some cases, delayed treatment of sialadenitis can lead to chronic infections or the formation of an abscess, which is extremely painful and will need to be drained surgically or by aspiration. The formation of an abscess can sometimes be prevented with early diagnosis of the condition. Untreated chronic bacterial infections may spread to other places in the body if they are not taken care of, potentially causing serious health problems.