What is a Salivary Stone?

What is a Salivary Stone?
Author: cmcgovern Posted: August 12th, 2022 Category:

Stones can form in your salivary gland, causing much pain. The good news?  This condtion can be easily treated!

Mouth pain is usually associated with a cavity or gum disease. But what if your pain is due to a salivary stone?

A salivary stone, or sialolithiasis, is quite rare. According to the Eye & Ear Foundation of Pittsburgh, the condition affects only one out of 10,000 people. Although a salivary stone is often asymptomatic, it can cause swelling and pain in the mouth, face, or neck. If you suspect you may have a salivary stone, talk to your dentist to get the stone treated.

What is a salivary gland stone?

Salivary gland stones develop due to a buildup of calcium in the salivary gland or duct leading to the gland. As the stone enlarges, saliva cannot reach the mouth, so the pain is felt most acutely when chewing food. The stones can grow in any salivary gland but are commonly found in the submandibular glands below the jaw. 

No definitive cause has been identified for salivary gland stones. It strikes people most often between the ages of 30 to 60. Men seem to be more prone to the condition than women. Smoking, dehydration, dry mouth, gum disease, and a mouth injury can also lead to a stone. Further, diuretics and anticholinergic drugs used to treat Parkinson’s and COPD may cause salivary stones, as those medications can dehydrate the body.

Symptoms may diminish for weeks and then start up again. If the symptoms persist, it could be a sign the gland is infected, a condition known as sialadenitis. At that point, a dental exam is warranted.

How are salivary gland stones treated?

Your dentist can diagnose a salivary gland stone with a physical examination and imaging tests, such as a CT scan or ultrasound. The tests can rule out other conditions, such as tumors or Sjögren’s syndrome. Treatment depends on how large the stone is.

To express a small stone on your own, apply a warm, moist compress to and gently massage the gland area. To stimulate salivation, suck on lemon drops or other tart candies (yes, in this instance, we’re encouraging candy!). Anti-inflammatory medications can reduce pain and swelling, but never attempt to break up a stone if you see one.

For larger stones or stones that don’t respond to conservative treatment, a sialendoscopy performed by an otolaryngologist may be recommended. In this minimally invasive procedure, the doctor uses a thin tube called a sialendoscopy to reach the gland. Once in the gland, the stone or bits of stone are removed with other instruments. If the duct is extremely narrow, the doctor may place a removable stent in the duct.

A more invasive procedure may be necessary if the stone is extremely large in size or oddly shaped. Yet, in this operation, the stone is extracted while preserving the salivary gland. With either surgery, the gland quickly returns to its normal function.

So how can you prevent salivary gland stones? The best advice is to stay hydrated. Drink plenty of water. And quit smoking! Otherwise, avoiding a painful salivary stone gland comes down to proper oral care. Brush and floss daily and visit your dentist regularly.

Why does your mouth hurt?

Schedule an appointment at Espire’s La Mesa location today! Our highly trained dentists can check your mouth to see if you are suffering from a salivary gland stone. Don’t live near our La Mesa, CA, office? Find one of our other locations near you.

La Mesa, CA
8555 Fletcher Parkway 
Suite 102 
La Mesa, CA 91942