What Causes Sialolithiasis (Salivary Stones)?

What Causes Sialolithiasis (Salivary Stones)?

Blog Synopsis:

  • Sialolithiasis is a condition that causes calcified masses, also called sialolith, to form within a salivary gland.
  • These stones block your salivary ducts, which cause your saliva to build up, making your salivary glands swell.
  • The physicians at AOC explain what causes sialolithiasis and how this condition can be treated.


Sialolithiasis is a unique condition that causes crystallized minerals to develop in the tubes that pass saliva, also known as the salivary ducts. While these stones generally cause no symptoms as they form, patients may begin to notice their existence after they reach a size that blocks the salivary ducts. When a blockage occurs, saliva starts to back up, causing pain and inflammation. Patients often report intermittent pain that worsens when treatment isn’t sought right away.

If patients don’t receive treatment, the swelling will get worse, increasing their risk of an infection within the affected salivary gland. If an infection does occur, patients may experience a fever, redness near the affected area, and a foul taste in the mouth. While the exact cause of salivary duct stones is not known, there are some risk factors that may lead to their development. 

First, dehydration and poor eating habits are considered culprits that can lead to the formation of salivary duct stones. Not drinking enough fluids can make your saliva more concentrated and not eating enough can cause a reduction in your saliva production, forming salivary duct stones. Taking certain medications, like blood pressure drugs or antihistamines, can also reduce saliva production, causing these salivary duct stones to develop.

Your primary care physician may advise you of these side effects if you take these medications (i.e. blood pressure drugs and antihistamines). If you develop tenderness, swelling, and pain around the mouth and neck, as well as a dry mouth or trouble swallowing, call AOC to schedule an appointment with one of our physicians. A specialist will examine your head and neck and check for swollen salivary glands and stones. 

If a physical examination doesn’t turn up any possibilities, various imaging tests may be ordered to provide a clearer diagnosis. Such tests may include an x-ray, ultrasound, or a CT scan to create images of the face. These images will help lead to a more conclusive diagnosis, such as salivary duct stones or some other gland-related condition. Once your doctor had determined the cause of your pain, he or she will develop a treatment plan.

For salivary duct stones, treatment may include conservative and minimally invasive therapies. Drinking lots of water or sucking on candies may help increase saliva production, which can force the stone out of the duct. Massaging the area and applying heat to the neck and face can also help the gland move through the duct. Still, home remedies may not treat the condition. If that’s the case, minimally invasive surgery may be necessary to remove the stones. One such procedure is called extracorporeal shock wave therapy (ESWL), and it helps break up stones in the body, including those in the kidney and bladder.

Talk to your AOC physician today about treatment for salivary stones!

Arizona Otolaryngology Consultants (AOC) is a comprehensive ENT clinic that provides care for all diseases of the ears, nose, throat, and sinuses. The physicians at AOC have the highest level of training and expertise in ENT care and ENT subspecialty care, which includes the management of pediatric airway, cancer, skull base surgery, advanced head and neck surgical and reconstructive procedures, craniofacial surgery and more. Call 602-264-4834 to request an appointment today!

The advice and information contained in this article is for educational purposes only and is not intended to replace or counter a physician’s advice or judgment. Please always consult your physician before taking any advice learned here or in any other educational medical material.

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