Salivary Gland Stones
Saliva (spit) is produced by the salivary glands in the mouth. There are three major salivary glands in addition to many minor salivary glands in the body that produce saliva. These glands also produce an enzyme called “amylase” that breaks down starch into the disaccharide maltose.
The chemicals and salts in saliva can crystallize into a stone that can block the salivary ducts. Sometimes salivary gland stones form that can block the flow of saliva, leading to a number of symptoms. While stones may come out on their own, some people may require a procedure in order to get the stones removed for proper flow of saliva.
Common symptoms of salivary gland stones include:
- Pain and swelling of the gland, especially at mealtimes. In most cases, the pain comes on suddenly after beginning a meal, followed by swelling of the gland, which lasts anywhere from 1-2 hours after eating. This typically occurs when a stone or stones block the salivary duct completely.
- When stones only partially block the salivary duct, symptoms including a dull pain of the gland and swelling of the face or neck may occur.
- Dry mouth
- Difficulty swallowing or opening mouth
All of these symptoms are typically most noticeable after eating or drinking.
The objective of treatment is to remove the stone or stones. Your doctor may advise drinking plenty of water or sucking on sugar-free lemon drops as methods for increasing flow of saliva. In some cases, the application of heat along with gentle massage to the area can help remove stones. If less invasive attempts at treatment do not work, an ENT specialist may recommend surgical treatment. The stone will either be reduced into small pieces so that it flushes out, or will be cut out.
Fortunately, salivary gland stones, while uncomfortable, are not typically dangerous as long as a proper treatment plan is followed. However, if you continue to experience the development of stones or infections related to salivary gland stones, it may be necessary to remove the affected salivary gland.
If you have questions about the symptoms of salivary gland stones, contact your local doctor who will arrange for you to see an ear nose throat specialist.