What Causes Salivary Gland Stones?
You’ve been having pain while swallowing and noticed some swelling in your face. Your dentist diagnoses you with salivary gland stones, has recommended steps to help you dislodge the stones and suggested an antibiotic to clear up any lingering infection. However, you still aren’t clear on one thing – how exactly you ended up with the painful stones in the first place.
According to the Mayo Clinic, the process of salivary gland stone formation is very similar to the way kidney stones are formed. The stones in the salivary ducts are caused by crystalized saliva and are generally made of calcium.
These stones can produce a variety of symptoms for patients, including pain while eating, difficulty swallowing, swelling and dry mouth. The severity of these symptoms can vary widely between patients. Some may not even know they’ve developed a stone. Others might visit a dentist complaining of mouth pain and get a salivary stone diagnosis after a series of tests, which might include an x-ray, ultrasound or CT scan.
Causes of Salivary Gland Stones
Unfortunately, medical professionals haven’t yet been able to pinpoint an exact cause of salivary gland stones in a way that explains why some patients develop them and others do not. They do know that some people develop them frequently, however, and that in some cases interventions including antibiotics to clear up any salivary gland infections are necessary to treat the condition.
While there is no single answer to what causes salivary gland stones, there are several recognized risk factors that can contribute to the development of salivary gland stones. By controlling your risk factors you may be able to help prevent the condition from developing again. Here are several of the risk factors for developing salivary gland stones:
- Dehydration. Not getting enough fluid is something many people who develop salivary gland stones have in common. When the mouth and body are dehydrated, it is difficult for the body to function properly —including saliva production. When there is not enough saliva present, the saliva can thicken and crystallize, gradually becoming the pesky stone.
- Poor nutrition. Like a dehydrated body, a malnourished body has difficulty regulating its functions. Those functions do include keeping the mouth hydrated and healthy by producing plenty of saliva. The best way to control this risk factor is to maintain a healthy diet. Be sure you’re eating plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and healthy, lean proteins, including low-fat and fat-free dairy products.
- Certain medications. Antihistamines — commonly used to control allergies — as well as some blood pressure, mental health and bladder infection medicines are all linked to the development of salivary gland stones. However, because these medications are vital parts of living a healthy, happy life for some, do not stop taking them. Instead, talk with your dentist about these risk factors and see what steps he or she recommends you take in order to keep both your mouth and your body as healthy as possible.
Depending on the size and location of the salivary stone, some patients may be able to dislodge by drinking more water or sucking on a sugar-free hard candy like lemon drops in order to stimulate saliva production. Other home methods include gently massaging the glands by putting pressure on the cheek area in front of the ears or below the jaw and tongue and pulling two fingers toward the nose or chin, respectively.
Other patients may require assistance from their dentists in order to break the stone down into smaller pieces so they may pass more easily. In the most severe cases when recurring stones is a chronic condition, a dentist might recommend a patient undergo a procedure to remove the offending salivary gland.