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Salivary gland stones are the result of a buildup of crystallized minerals from saliva. When these minerals build up, they can sometimes block the salivary gland duct, preventing saliva from reaching the mouth. This can lead to a back up in saliva in the effected salivary gland, creating a painful lump along the jaw line. Although this condition most commonly affects the submandibular gland, which is located right below the center of the jaw on either side, it can also affect the parotid glands, located at the back of the jaw near the ear.
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Symptoms and Diagnosis
The most obvious sign of this condition is the swollen jaw, usually only on one side of the face and located back towards the ear. The swollen area is often painful to the touch, and may turn red if the swelling gets bad enough. The pain and swelling can also extend into the mouth, and is usually the most pronounced while eating or drinking. If the blocked gland becomes infected, there is also a chance for a fever.
Diagnosing this condition is usually a simple process of massaging the glands to feel for the swelling. In some cased, the doctor can feel the stone inside the duct. In many cases, a ultrasound, MRI or CT scan is done to confirm the diagnosis, just in case the swelling is caused by some other condition, such as a tumor or infection.
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Treating this condition does not usually require the use of medication. Warm compresses, massaging the area, and staying hydrated are usually the recommended course of treatment. Sucking on sour candies or eating citrus fruits, both which increase saliva production, may also work. If the doctor can apply pressure on the stone, and remove it from the duct from inside the mouth, that is the quickest treatment. If nothing else is working, a minor surgery will be scheduled to remove the stone.
In some cases, the blocked duct can become infected. There may be a fever associated with the swelling, and, in rare cases, a small amount of pus may be seeping out of the blocked duct. Although this is not life threatening, it will often require a course of antibiotics as well as treatment to remove the stone. If the blocked duct or infections begin to happen regularly, surgery can be scheduled to remove the affected gland.