Banner image

Salivary duct stones

Sialolithiasis

Find

Learn More

Causes

Spit (saliva) is produced by the salivary glands in the mouth. The chemicals in saliva can form a hard crystal that can block the salivary ducts.

When saliva cannot exit a blocked duct, it backs up into the gland. This may cause pain and swelling of the gland.

There are three pairs of major salivary glands:

  • Parotid glands -- These are the two largest glands. One is located in each cheek over the jaw in front of the ears. Inflammation of one or more of these glands is called parotitis, or parotiditis.
  • Submandibular glands -- These two glands are located just under both sides of the jaw and carry saliva up to the floor of mouth under the tongue.
  • Sublingual glands -- These two glands are located just under the front area of the floor of the mouth.

Salivary stones most often affect the submandibular glands. They can also affect the parotid glands.

Definition

Salivary duct stones are deposits of minerals in the ducts that drain the salivary glands. Salivary duct stones are a type of salivary gland disorder.

Exams and Tests

The health care provider or dentist will do an exam of your head and neck to look for one or more enlarged, tender salivary glands. The provider may be able to find the stone during the exam by feeling under your tongue.

Tests such as x-rays, ultrasound, MRI scan or CT scan of the face are used to confirm the diagnosis.

Outlook (Prognosis)

Most of the time, salivary duct stones cause only pain or discomfort, and at times become infected.

Symptoms

Symptoms include:

The symptoms occur most often when eating or drinking.

Treatment

The goal is to remove the stone.

Steps you can take at home include:

  • Drinking lots of water
  • Using sugar-free lemon drops to increase the saliva

Other ways to remove the stone are:

  • Massaging the gland with heat -- The provider or dentist may be able to push the stone out of the duct.
  • In some cases, you may need surgery to cut out the stone.
  • A newer treatment that uses shock waves to break the stone into small pieces is another option.
  • A new technique, called sialoendoscopy, can diagnose and treat stones in the salivary gland duct using very small cameras and instruments.
  • If stones become infected or come back often, you may need surgery to remove the salivary gland.

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Call your provider if you have symptoms of salivary duct stones.

Review Date: 8/1/2017
Reviewed By: Ashutosh Kacker, MD, FACS, Professor of Clinical Otolaryngology, Weill Cornell Medical College, and Attending Otolaryngologist, New York-Presbyterian Hospital, New York, NY. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

ADAM QualityA.D.A.M., Inc. is accredited by URAC, also known as the American Accreditation HealthCare Commission (www.urac.org). URAC's accreditation program is an independent audit to verify that A.D.A.M. follows rigorous standards of quality and accountability. A.D.A.M. is among the first to achieve this important distinction for online health information and services. Learn more about A.D.A.M.'s editorial policy, editorial process and privacy policy. A.D.A.M. is also a founding member of Hi-Ethics and subscribes to the principles of the Health on the Net Foundation (www.hon.ch).

The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 9-1-1 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only—they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997-2010 A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.