Salivary gland stones

These are small stones that form in salivary glands in your mouth and can block your flow of saliva. They're not usually serious and you may be able to remove them yourself.

Check if you've got salivary gland stones

Most stones appear below your tongue in one of the tubes (glands) supplying saliva to your mouth. You can't always see them.

The stones may cause:

  • dull pain in your mouth that comes and goes
  • swelling in your mouth that flares up from time to time
  • an infection around the stone

If you feel intense pain during mealtimes, this could mean the stone is completely blocking a saliva gland. The pain usually lasts 1 to 2 hours.

Things you can try yourself

You can try to free the stone by doing things to increase saliva production, such as:

  • sucking on a lemon or lemon drops
  • drinking plenty of water
  • gently massaging around the stone

Don't use a sharp instrument to remove the stone as this could cause injury and infection.

If you have pain and swelling:

  • take paracetamol or ibuprofen
  • suck ice cubes or ice lollies

The symptoms won't go away until the stone has been removed.

See a GP if:

  • you're unable to remove the stone yourself
  • the stone has caused an infection – signs include pain, redness or pus around the stone, and a high temperature (you feel hot and shivery)

Treatment to remove the stones

Your GP may attempt to gently remove the stone with a thin, blunt instrument.

If that's not possible, you may need to have the stone removed in hospital.

You can't always prevent salivary gland stones

It's not clear what causes salivary gland stones, so there's no way to prevent them.

They're not generally linked with any other health problems.

Salivary stones don't usually come back, but if you keep getting them you might be advised to have one of your salivary glands removed.

Page last reviewed: 09/10/2017
Next review due: 09/10/2020

Call 111

If you can’t speak to your GP or don’t know what to do next.