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Salivary Gland Stones

Salivary gland stones primarily occur in the glands that are under the skin in front of the ear (the parotid glands) and the glands located underneath the jaw (the submandibular glands).

Stones can also occur in the ducts, which are tubes that transfer saliva from the gland to the mouth.


There are usually no symptoms as the stones form.

When they become large enough to block the duct, however, you may feel pain and swelling that gets progressively worse. If left untreated, the gland can become infected.


Although the exact cause isn't known, stones can form as a result of dehydration. Things that contribute to mouth dryness or thickened saliva should be avoided, including:

  • Certain medications, such as antihistamines and blood pressure drugs
  • Poor eating habits
  • Trauma to the salivary glands

Diagnosis and treatment

Salivary gland stones may be felt on physical examination or seen on X-ray or CT examination.

Treatment of a salivary gland stone begins with adequate hydration and massage of the gland. By massaging the affected gland,  the saliva is pushed out of the duct and gland and into the mouth, thus encouraging the stone to be expressed.

Occasionally stones that are felt in the floor of the mouth where the submandibular gland is located may be removed through a small procedure in the mouth called a sialodendoscopy.

Sialodendoscopy is a procedure in which a small camera is placed through the mouth into the duct to identify the stone. The stone is then broken apart with a laser and removed.

Occasionally, patients with stones may need the salivary gland removed. This is known as a submandibular gland resection or parotidectomy.

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