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.

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 cannot always see them.

A close-up of the inside of a person's mouth with a large white salivary stone under their tongue
Salivary gland stones are white and hard
A close-up of the inside of a person's mouth with a small white salivary stone under their tongue
They vary in size, but most are as big as a pea

The stones may cause:

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 remove the stone by doing things to increase saliva production, such as:

If you have pain and swelling:

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

Important: 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)

Treatment to remove the stones

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.

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

Page last reviewed: 11 November 2020
Next review due: 11 November 2023