Salivary gland stones — also known as salivary duct stones — are calcified structures that might develop inside a duct or salivary gland. Salivary gland stones can obstruct the normal flow of saliva.
Usually, salivary stones affect the submandibular glands present at the mouth’s floor. But sometimes, the salivary gland stones affect the sublingual glands located under the tongue or the parotid glands that are present inside the cheeks. Moreover, there are a lot of people with this condition who have multiple salivary gland stones.
Causes and Symptoms of Salivary Gland Stones
Stones develop due to the accumulation of saliva chemicals in the gland or duct. They mainly consist of calcium. While the exact cause of this condition is unknown, factors involved in blockage of saliva production might be risk factors for the development of salivary gland stones. The risk factors include poor eating, use of some medications (like antihistamines), dehydration, blood pressure drugs, bladder control drugs and psychiatric drugs. Salivary gland stones may also form due to salivary gland trauma.
There are no symptoms immediately after the formation of stones, but after reaching a size, it causes blockage of the duct. This results in the saliva to back up into the salivary gland, leading to swelling and pain. The pain caused by salivary gland stone might come and go, and can get worse with time. Infection and inflammation within the affected salivary gland might follow.
Diagnosis and Treatment of Salivary Gland Stones
If you experience any symptoms, consult your doctor to get the stones examined with the help of a physical exam. Your doctor may prescribe tests, such as CT scan, X-ray, or ultrasound.
In case a salivary stone is detected, the treatment would involve use of effective measures to remove the stone. For tiny salivary stones, sour candies or sucking on a lemon can be used to stimulate saliva flow, which might push the stone out of the duct. However, in other cases of small stones, the dentist might massage or push the salivary stone to remove it from the duct. For a larger stone, doctors typically create a small incision in the mouth in order to get rid of the stone.
Doctors today are making use of a newer as well as less invasive method known as sialendoscopy to get rid of salivary gland stones. Sialendoscopy has been successfully used in Europe for about 10 years. This technique makes use of tiny lighted scopes that are inserted into the opening of the gland, to find the stone by visualizing the duct system. The surgeon can then use micro instruments to remove the stone and ease the blockage. The technique is performed under light or local general anesthesia.