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Salivary gland stones

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

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

A close-up of the inside of a person's mouth with a large white salivary stone under their tongueA close-up of the inside of a person's mouth with a small white salivary stone under their tongue

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.

You can try to remove 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

If you have pain and swelling:

The symptoms will not go away until the stone has been removed.

Do not use anything sharp to remove stones

Do not use a sharp instrument to remove a salivary gland stone because it could cause injury and infection.

Non-urgent advice: 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)

A 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.

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 do not usually come back, but if you keep getting them you might need to have one of your salivary glands removed.