A healthy flow of saliva is critical for chewing and digestion, bathing gums, and bacterial control. And we owe it all to salivary glands, three pairs of organs in the cheek and floor of the mouth. Each gland secretes saliva into the mouth via a tube, and this is where trouble can begin.
Sialolithiasis—whew—names the condition that results from a small calcified stone blocking the salivary duct. Clearly, a kink in the duct will cause swelling of the gland itself.
And swelling usually means a measure of pain.
X-rays, ultrasound or an MRI will reveal any salivary gland blockage. In some people, stones recur again and again and may warrant minor surgery. Or a dentist, by fairly simple manual manipulation, can expel the stone and send you on your way.
- Swelling under the chin or just in front of your ear, especially while you’re eating and your glands are getting a workout.
- Any lack of saliva (we call it “dry mouth”).
- Pain in the jaw or a diffused discomfort at the bottom of the mouth.