Salivary Gland Stones

Salivary glands make saliva. Saliva is mostly water. It also has minerals and proteins that help break down food and keep the mouth and teeth healthy. There are 3 pairs of salivary glands:

  • Parotid glands. In front of the ear.

  • Submandibular glands. Below the jaw.

  • Sublingual glands. Below the tongue.

Each gland has a tube (duct) that lets saliva flow from the gland to the mouth. A salivary gland stone can form as a result of poor salivary flow. This lets minerals build up and create a stone. When a stone forms, it blocks saliva flow. The gland swells and becomes painful. Symptoms may be worse when eating. This is because food triggers the flow of saliva.

A blocked salivary gland may become infected. This can cause worsened pain, redness over the gland, and fever.

Tests that help diagnose a salivary gland stone include CT-scan, X-ray, ultrasound, or injecting dye into the salivary duct. A stone may be removed or allowed to pass on its own.

Home care

  • Unless another medicine was prescribed, take over-the-counter medicines, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen, to help ease pain.

  • Moist heat can also help ease pain. Wet a cloth with warm water and put it over the affected gland for 10 to 15 minutes several times a day.

  • Gently massage the gland a few times a day. 

  • Suck on lemon or other tart hard candies to cause flow of saliva.

  • To help prevent future stones:

    • Drink 6 to 8 glasses of fluid per day (such as water, tea, and clear soup) to keep well-hydrated.

    • If you smoke, ask your healthcare provider for help to quit. Smoking makes salivary gland stones more likely.

    • Keep good dental hygiene. Brush and floss your teeth daily. See your dentist for regular cleanings.

Follow-up care

Follow up with your healthcare provider or as advised.

When to call your healthcare provider

Call your healthcare provider if any of the following occur:

  • Pain or swelling in the gland that gets worse

  • Can't open mouth or pain when opening mouth

  • Fever of 100.4°F (38ºC) or higher, or as directed by your healthcare provider

  • Redness over the sore gland

  • Fluid (pus) draining into the mouth

Call 911

Call 911 if you have trouble swallowing or breathing.

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