A salivary gland stone -- also called salivary duct stone -- is a calcified structure that may form inside a salivary gland or duct. It can block the flow of saliva into the mouth.
The majority of stones affect the submandibular glands located at the floor of the mouth. Less commonly, the stones affect the parotid glands, located on the inside of the cheeks, or the sublingual glands, which are under the tongue. Many people with the condition have multiple stones.
Salivary Gland Stone Causes and Symptoms
Salivary stones form when chemicals in the saliva accumulate in the duct or gland. They mostly contain calcium. The exact cause is not known. But factors contributing to less saliva production and/or thickened saliva may be risk factors for salivary stones. These factors include: dehydration, poor eating, and use of certain medications (such as antihistamines), blood pressure drugs, psychiatric drugs, and bladder control drugs. Trauma to the salivary glands may also raise the risk for salivary stones.
The stones cause no symptoms as they form, but if they reach a size that blocks the duct, saliva backs up into the gland, causing pain and swelling. You may feel the pain off and on, and it may get progressively worse. Inflammation and infection within the affected gland may follow.
Salivary Gland Stones Diagnosis and Treatments
If you have symptoms of a salivary gland stone, your doctor will first check for stones with a physical exam. Sometimes tests may also be ordered, such as X-ray, CT scan, or ultrasound.