The salivary glands are tissues located in your mouth and throat. Their primary function is to maintain oral and dental hygiene and aid chewing and digestion. Salivary glands also prevent dehydration, as they signal to the body to produce more fluid when the mouth is dry.
Sialoliths are tiny stones that form inside the salivary glands. No one knows exactly why the stones begin to form inside the salivary glands, but there are certain risk factors including:
- Dehydration, which thickens the saliva
- Not eating much, which decreases the demand for saliva
- Medications that decrease saliva production, including certain antihistamines, blood pressure drugs, and psychiatric medications
Depending on its location, your doctor may be able to gently press such a stone out. If the stone is deeper within the duct, your doctor may recommend surgery to remove it or the gland
If the stone causes a blockage within the salivary glands, it can lead to sialadenitis, a condition where the salivary glands become inflamed and enlarged. There are both acute and chronic forms.
Salivary Gland Tumors
Both benign and malignant tumors can grow in your salivary glands. No one knows exactly why the tumors begin to form inside the salivary glands, but certain risk factors can lead to them, including:
- Radiation exposure
- Long-term history of smoking
Depending on the type of tumor, your doctor will recommend different treatments. Benign tumors are usually are removed surgically. Malignant tumors often can be treated with surgery alone. However, large, aggressive tumors usually require radiation following surgery. Tumors located in difficult places to remove surgically are treated with radiation or chemotherapy in order to shrink them.