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Parotid Duct Obstruction

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Jan 5, 2023.

What is a parotid duct obstruction?

A parotid duct obstruction (PDO) is when your parotid gland is blocked. Your parotid glands are found in your cheeks, over your jaw and in front of your ears. They release saliva into your mouth through the parotid duct. Saliva helps break down food and protect your teeth.

What causes a PDO?

Your parotid duct may narrow or become blocked because of an injury or infection. Minerals in your saliva can harden and form a stone that blocks the duct. Stones may form if you do not produce enough saliva. You also may have a mass that blocks the duct.

What are the signs and symptoms of a PDO?

  • Swelling and pain that is worse when you eat
  • Pus that drains from the gland into your mouth
  • Bad breath
  • Tooth decay

How is a PDO diagnosed?

Your healthcare provider will examine your face and mouth. Your provider will feel your parotid gland to learn how swollen it is. You may need any of the following:

  • Blood tests will show infection and which germ is causing it.
  • A pus culture is a test of the pus draining from your parotid gland. The culture is used to find the cause of your infection.
  • An ultrasound uses sound waves to show parotid gland blockage.
  • A CT scan , or CAT scan, takes pictures of your parotid gland. The pictures may show a blockage, mass, or infection. You may be given a dye before the pictures are taken to help healthcare providers see the gland better. Tell the healthcare provider if you have ever had an allergic reaction to contrast dye.
  • A biopsy , or fine needle aspiration, may show what is causing your blockage. Healthcare providers use a small needle to take fluid or tissue out of the gland to be tested.

How is a PDO treated?

  • Medicines:
    • Antibiotics are used to treat an infection caused by bacteria.
    • NSAIDs help decrease swelling and pain or fever. This medicine is available with or without a doctor's order. NSAIDs can cause stomach bleeding or kidney problems in certain people. If you take blood thinner medicine, always ask your healthcare provider if NSAIDs are safe for you. Always read the medicine label and follow directions.
  • A parotid duct dilation may be needed to widen or open the duct. Healthcare providers may use a tube or balloon. Ask your healthcare provider for more information on dilation.
  • Stone removal may be needed to remove a stone that is blocking your parotid gland. Healthcare providers may use sound waves to break up the stone and then flush out the pieces. A basket may also be used to remove the stone from the duct.
  • Parotid gland removal may be needed if other treatments do not work. Healthcare providers remove all or part of your parotid gland through surgery.

How can I manage my symptoms?

  • Keep your mouth moist. Suck on hard or sour candy to get your saliva to flow.
  • Massage the area of your swollen gland. This may help relieve swelling and pain.
  • Apply heat on your swollen gland for 20 to 30 minutes every 2 hours for as many days as directed. Heat helps decrease pain and swelling.

How can I help prevent a PDO?

  • Drink liquids as directed. Ask your healthcare provider how much liquid to drink each day and which liquids are best for you.
  • Brush and floss your teeth. Good dental hygiene may prevent obstruction and infection.

When should I seek immediate care?

  • You have severe pain.
  • You cannot move part of your face.

When should I call my doctor?

  • You have a fever.
  • The skin over your parotid gland is red and warm.
  • Your pain and swelling do not go away, or they get worse.
  • Both sides of your face are swollen.
  • Your mouth and eyes are very dry.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your healthcare providers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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