When Do You Need To Have Your Salivary Glands Removed?

Many people aren’t aware of the complications associated with your salivary glands, but there are issues which sometimes require surgery. If you have a blockage in your salivary glands, or a growth on the gland itself, you may need to have the glands removed – depending on how much of the gland is affected, this may mean a section or the whole gland. A blockage can occur by salivary duct stones, or a narrowing of the salivary duct. The salivary glands are used to keep the mouth moist, allowing you to swallow, break down food as part of digestion, and also keeping your teeth healthy. There are three major pairs of glands, known as the parotid glands, submandibular glands and the sublingual glands. Each of these plays a vital role in the health of your mouth – the former are the largest of these pairs, and are situated between your cheekbones and jawbones on either side of your face. The submandibular glands are smaller that the parotids and are located under each side of your jawbone; the sublingual are the smallest of the three and are felt as two lumps underneath your tongue.


You can spot a problem with your salivary glands when they swell, or if you can feel a smaller lump within the gland. If you suspect you may have a problem with your salivary glands, it is important to seek medical advice – your GP will most likely refer you to an ear, nose and throat surgeon, or an oral and maxillofacial surgeon, who specialises in surgical procedures that are required on the head, neck, face or jaw. You may need to have a blood test and a scan of the area, either an ultrasound, a CT or an MRI scan. If there is suspicion of a tumour, there may need to be a biopsy taken as well. If the problem is a duct stone, you may need to have a procedure known as a sialoscopy – this requires the use of a flexible tube to get the stone out. In order to prepare for this procedure, you will need to stop smoking if you do already, and follow any other advice your surgeon gives you. The surgery is done under general anaesthesia, which means you’ll be asleep during the procedure – this requires you to follow fasting instructions.


If you notice any side effects from your surgery, it’s vital that you seek advice from your GP as these may be from complications with the surgery – for example, if you notice a burning sensation around or on the wound, or if it looks swollen and inflamed, this could be a sign of an infection. You may need a course of antibiotics to resolve this. If there is a build-up of saliva under your skin, this could have occurred from only half of the gland being removed – when this is the case, saliva can seep from the cut edge into the rest of the wound, leading it to swell. More often than not, this will clear itself without treatment, but this can take a few months to heal. Frey’s syndrome is another problem which occurs when the nerves which are cut during surgery reconnect abnormally with sweat glands – it can lead to your cheeks becoming red and flushed, and you may feel sweaty when you eat. These are fairly rare, but their symptoms are worth being aware of so that you can seek advice if you notice any of them. If you do notice anything wrong after your surgery, speak to your GP who can advice whether you require any antibiotics to clear an infection.

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