While most everyone is familiar with kidney stones and gallstones, salivary stones (also called) sialoliths are also a real disorder. They are caused by a buildup of calcium in the salivary gland or duct Salivary stones may remain in the gland, unnoticed. They become problematic when they partially or totally block the natural flow of saliva into your mouth, causing pain and inflammation, and can even lead to infection. Sialoliths most often occur in the submandibular glands, found under the jaw. Less common are stones in the parotid and sublingual salivary glands.
- Swelling of the affected saliva glands which normally occurs with meals
- Difficulty opening the mouth
- Difficulty swallowing
- Painful lump under the tongue
- Strange or foul taste in mouth
- Dry mouth
- Pain and swelling usually around the ear or under the jaw
If you are experiencing the above symptoms, it is important that you see your doctor. ENT specialists are experienced in diagnosing and treating salivary stones. You should begin supportive measures to help minimize discomfort associated with a stone or infection.
- Drink plenty of fluids. Dehydration can contribute to a blocked salivary duct.
- Gentle massage around the affected area
- Warm, moist compress to the swollen jaw
- Suck sour candies, such as lemondrops or Lemonheads to stimulate saliva to “flush out” the stone
What can I expect at the appointment?
At your appointment, the ENT specialist will perform a visual and manual examination of your mouth and neck. He or she will look and feel for swelling of the salivary glands and possible infection. Sometimes the stone protrudes from the salivary duct, and the doctor can gently remove it. Another treatment is to gradually dilate the duct, so the stone can more readily pass naturally with your saliva. This procedure typically causes little to no pain or discomfort. If you have an infection, your doctor will likely prescribe an antibiotic. Left untreated, a blocked salivary duct can have serious health consequences.