Sialolithiasis (Salivary Duct Stones)

What is it?

Saliva is produced by three pairs of major salivary glands as well as many minor salivary glands. The glands continually release saliva—a teaspoon every five minutes—into salivary ducts, which route it to the mouth. There, saliva moistens food to help with chewing and swallowing. Saliva cleanses the mouth by washing away bacteria and food particles. It also carries enzymes that begin the digestion process.

Sialolithiasis is when chemicals in saliva crystallize into small stones that block the salivary ducts. The salivary ducts in the floor of the mouth often are the ones affected by stones. Also the submandibular glands, in the back of the jaw on each side of the mouth, often are affected. When the ducts are blocked, saliva is unable to drain from a gland, which may lead to a bacterial infection.

What are the symptoms?

Symptoms may include facial or neck swelling, pain in the mouth or face, and a dry mouth. The symptoms may be more noticeable when a child is eating or drinking or your child may be reluctant to eat and drink. If the stone has caused a gland to become infected, the area of infection will be swollen, painful, and tender to the touch, and your child may run a fever.

Stones are more likely to form when your child is dehydrated. Also, certain medications may make your child at higher risk for stones.

How are salivary duct Stones treated?

The goal of treatment is to remove the stone or stones. Usually, the stones will clear on their own but if they don't, they may need to be removed surgically. If your child has repeated stones or gland infections, the salivary glands involved may need to be removed surgically.

One less invasive option is called sialendoscopy, which involves reaching the salivary glands through a tube inserted into the mouth. If this type of surgery is appropriate for your child's circumstances, it can reduce pain and recovery times for your child. Children's helped pioneer this surgery and was the first hospital in North America to perform a sialendoscopy.

About surgery for sialolithiasis at Children's

The ENT surgery team at Children's provides next-generation care to neonatal infants, newborns, children, and adolescents from throughout the Upper Midwest. This multidisciplinary team provides some of the most cutting-edge, delicate treatments available, including newborn surgery and minimally invasive surgery. Otolaryngology surgery is performed at Children's - Minneapolis, Children's - St. Paul, and Children's West.

If you are a family member looking for a Children's ENT specialist, visit Find a Doctor.

If you are a health professional looking for a consultation or referral information, please call Children's Physician Referral at 1-866-755-2121 (toll-free).

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