Salivary Gland Surgery

1. What are Salivary Glands?

Salivary glands are the organs responsible for producing saliva. As expected, all the salivary glands are located within the head and neck region.
There are 3 pairs of major salivary glands, namely the parotid glands (situated just in front of the ears), the submandibular glands (situated below the jaw bone, one on each side) and the sublingual glands (situated within the front of the mouth below the tongue).
In addition, there are thousands of minor salivary glands scattered throughout the mucosal lining of the mouth, nose and throat.

2. What is Salivary Gland Surgery?

Salivary gland surgery is surgery to remove part or all of a diseased salivary gland.
The commonest indication for surgery is a tumour arising from the gland in question. This tumour may be benign (non-cancerous) or malignant (cancerous).
Other less common salivary gland diseases requiring surgery include stone formation, chronic inflammation of the gland or certain bad infections.

3. What are Salivary Gland Tumours?

Tumours are abnormal growths made up of cells which no longer obey the body’s controlling mechanisms. Tumours may be benign (non-cancerous) or malignant (cancerous).
Like any other organ in the human body, tumours can arise within the salivary glands. They usually present as a persistent swelling or lump. Depending on the gland involved, the likelihood of the tumour being cancerous varies.

4. What are Salivary Gland Stones?

Salivary gland stones are calcium deposits which form within the ducts (saliva channels) of the major salivary glands. They range in size from little more than a grain of sand to large stones several centimetres in diameter. Tiny stones may not give rise to any symptoms. However, once a stone becomes large enough to block a saliva channel, then problems arise. The main symptoms are pain and swelling of the gland brought on by eating.

The vast majority of stones arise within the submandibular salivary glands. Parotid gland stones are much less common and sublingual gland stones are very rare.