February 8, 2005

Sialolithiasis – Blocked Saliva Gland

Sialolithiasis is the formation of stones in the salivary glands.

Stones are usually found in the submandibular gland, and parotid gland, where stones can obstruct Wharton's duct.

Usually Sialolithiasis is linked to chronic infections (Staphylococcus aureus, Streptococcus viridans) of the glands, dehydration (phenothiazines), Sjögren's syndrome and/or increased local levels of calcium. However, some cases can arise idiopathically. Pain, when present, usually originates from the floor of the mouth, although in many cases the stones cause only intermittent swelling.

Since chewing promotes release of saliva, symptoms tend to increase during meals. A palpable lump or visible swelling in the area of the gland is often noted.

Complications include persistent obstruction of the duct, leading to bacterial invasion, overgrowth and infection (sialoadenitis). This can require IV antibiotics such as nafcillin, and sometimes surgical drainage.


Diagnosis is typically made by characteristic history and physical examination, and can be confirmed by x-ray or by sialogram or ultrasound.


Some current treatment options are:

  • For small stones, hydration, moist heat, NSAIDs occasionally, and having the patient take any food or beverage that is bitter and/or sour. Sucking on citrus fruits, such as a lemon or orange, may increase salivation and promote spontaneous expulsion of the stone.
  • Some stones may be massaged out by a specialist.
  • An ENT or maxillofacial surgeon may canulate the duct to remove the stone (sialotomy).
  • A surgeon may make a small incision near the stone to remove it.
  • Sialendoscopy
  • To prevent infection while the stone is lodged in the duct, sometimes antibiotics are used. In some cases when stones continually reoccur the offending salivary duct is removed.

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