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Salivary duct stones

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.

Alternative Names

Sialolithiasis

Causes

Saliva (spit) 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 located at the back of the mouth on both sides of the jaw.
  • Sublingual glands. These two glands are located are under the floor of the mouth.

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

Symptoms

The symptoms occur most often when eating or drinking.

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 doctor may be able to feel the stone during the exam.

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

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 doctor 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 miniature cameras and instruments
  • If stones become infected or come back often, you may need surgery to remove the salivary gland.

Outlook (Prognosis)

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

When to Contact a Medical Professional

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

References

Elluru RG. Physiology of the salivary glands. In: Cummings Cw, Flint PW, Haughey BH, et al, eds. Otolaryngology: Head & Neck Surgery. 5th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Mosby Elseiver; 2010:chap 84.

Lacey J. Diagnostic imaging and fine-needle aspiration of the salivary glands. In: Cummings CW, Flint PW, Haughey BH, et al, eds. Otolaryngology: Head & Neck Surgery. 5th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Mosby Elseiver; 2010:chap 85.

Rogers J, McCaffrey TV. Inflammatory disorders of the salivary glands. In: Cummings CW, Flint PW, Haughey BH, et al, eds. Otolaryngology: Head & Neck Surgery. 5th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Mosby Elseiver; 2010:chap 86.


Review Date: 8/5/2013
Reviewed By: Ashutosh Kacker, MD, BS, Associate Professor of Otolaryngology, Weill Cornell Medical College, and Associate Attending Otolaryngologist, New York-Presbyterian Hospital, New York, NY. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Bethanne Black, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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