Sialolithiasis (salivary gland stone) is the most common disease of the salivary glands, affecting 12 in 1000 people in the adult population. It can occur at any age and most commonly occurs in the salivary gland that are located under your jaw, called submandibular glands. They also occur in the parotid gland, which is located in your cheek. These occur when calcium deposits in the duct of the gland, blocking the flow of saliva, causing pain and discomfort associated with eating. This page contains information about the symptoms and treatment of this common condition.
What is a salivary gland stone?
When flow of saliva through the salivary gland slows down, material in the duct can form stones. These stones block the outflow of saliva, causing swelling and pain in the gland.
Where does this happen?
Stones can form in any of the major salivary glands. These include the parotid gland and the submandibular gland.
What are the symptoms?
Pain (parotid causes cheek pain, submandibular stones cause jaw and mouth pain)
Swelling of the face
Pain with eating How do I know if I have stones?
Symptoms suggestive of stones should be evaluated by an Ear, Nose, and Throat physician that specializes in salivary gland disease. You should have a careful examination and may also have a CT scan done to confirm the presence of a stone.
What are traditional treatment options?
Traditional treatment options
Traditionally, the only treatment option for persistent salivary gland stones associated with inflammation was surgery. Surgery could include removal of the entire salivary gland and duct or marsupialization of the duct with stone removal.
Other methods of treatment focused on prevention. These include:
- sialogogues substances that naturally increase salivary flow
- hydration to increase the amount of saliva, preventing stasis and build-up of stones in the duct system
- massage of the gland to manually move stones through the system, preventing large stone formation
- antibiotics to prevent infection from duct obstruction
Although these methods are helpful, they are only temporary measures and eventually patients find themselves faced with surgical resection of the entire gland to stem their symptoms.
Salivary gland surgery has many potential complications. Salivary glands are located close to nerves that are critical for normal facial movement, taste, and sensation. Complications associated with injuries to these nerves include:
- Loss of oral sensation
- Loss of taste
- Facial weakness
- Scarring associated with surgical incisions
- Facial deformity
- Occasionally, if the duct is not removed completely, recurrent symptoms may occur