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Salivary Gland Stones

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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.

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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.

If a stone is detected, the goal of treatment is to remove it. For small stones, stimulating saliva flow by sucking on a lemon or sour candies may cause the stone to pass spontaneously. In other cases where stones are small, the doctor or dentist may massage or push the stone out of the duct.

For larger, harder-to-remove stones, doctors usually make a small incision in the mouth to remove the stone.

More and more, doctors are using a newer and less invasive technique called sialendoscopy to remove salivary gland stones. Developed and used successfully in Europe for a decade, sialendoscopy uses tiny lighted scopes, inserted into the gland's opening in the mouth, to visualize the salivary duct system and locate the stone. Then, using micro instruments, the surgeon can remove the stone to relieve the blockage. The procedure is performed under local or light general anesthesia, which allows the patient to go home right after the procedure.

For people with recurrent stones or irreversible damage to the salivary gland, surgical removal of the gland is necessary.

In addition, antibiotics are prescribed if salivary stones have caused infection.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Steve Drescher, DDS on April 14, 2013
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Only 18.5% of Americans never floss. You are missing out on a simple way to make a big difference in the health of your mouth. Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Floss removes food trapped between the teeth and removes the film of bacteria that forms there before it turns to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Try flossing just one tooth to get started.

You are one of 31% of Americans who don't floss daily. You are missing out on a simple way to make a big difference in the health of your mouth. Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces. Flossing removes up to 80% of the film that hardens to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Aim for 3 more days!

You are one of 31% of Americans who don't floss daily, but you're well on your way to making a positive impact on your teeth and gums. Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces. Flossing removes up to 80% of the film that hardens to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Aim for all 7 days!

Only 50.5% of Americans floss daily, and good for you that you are one of them! Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces. Flossing removes up to 80% of the film that hardens to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Congratulations on your good oral health habit!

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American Dental Association, Healthy People 2010

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