What Is Salivary Gland Disease?

The salivary glands can be affected by a number of conditions, including Sjögren syndrome, sarcoidosis, oral cancer and trauma. Other salivary gland conditions are congenital (present at birth).

The salivary glands produce saliva, the lubricating substance in the mouth that helps us talk, chew food and swallow. When the salivary glands are diseased, they don’t produce adequate saliva, which can interfere with normal talking and eating. Saliva also contains enzymes that begin the process of digesting foods and antimicrobial properties that protect the teeth from decay.

There are three main salivary glands:

  • Parotid (in front of the ear)
  • Sublingual (under the tongue)
  • Submandibular (below the jaw joint)

There are also smaller salivary glands in the mucus membranes of the cheeks, lips and gums.