Salivary Gland Stones

Stones that form in the ducts of the salivary glands

  • More common over the age of 40
  • Twice as common in males
  • Genetics and lifestyle are not significant factors

There are three pairs of salivary glands in the mouth, and sometimes the salivary ducts (tubes through which saliva enters the mouth) become blocked by stones. The stones are composed of calcium salts and vary in size. They either partially or, rarely, completely block the duct. The salivary gland then becomes swollen and feels painful during eating because saliva cannot escape from the gland into the mouth. In most cases, no cause can be found. Stones are twice as common in men and occur most often in people over the age of 40.

What are the symptoms?

In most cases, the symptoms of salivary gland stones include:

  • A visible swelling on the outside of the mouth or the sensation of a lump inside the mouth.

  • Pain during or after a meal due to a build-up of saliva behind the stone.

A blocked salivary duct is liable to become infected, causing the swelling to become red and inflamed, with possible leakage of pus into the mouth.

What might be done?

To confirm the presence of a salivary gland stone, you may have imaging tests, such as X-rays, CT scanning, MRI, or ultrasound scanning. If the location is unclear, you may have a test called a sialogram, in which a dye is injected directly into the blocked duct and an X-ray of the area is taken. The doctor may be able to tease out the stone using a thin, blunt instrument. Alternatively, a procedure called sialendoscopy may be used. In this procedure, which is usually carried out under local anaesthesia, a thin endoscope (viewing tube) is inserted into the salivary duct and instruments are passed down the tube to remove the stone. Sometimes it may be necessary to remove a stone by surgery. Rarely, lithotripsy may be used in which ultrasound shock waves are used to break up the stone so that the fragments can be flushed out. Salivary gland stones may recur after treatment.

From the 2010 revision of the Complete Home Medical Guide © Dorling Kindersley Limited.

The subjects, conditions and treatments covered in this encyclopaedia are for information only and may not be covered by your insurance product should you make a claim.

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