Disclaimer: Just so you know, this isn’t my usual good-times kind of a post. It’s not about my travels and certainly not about something exciting. I’m warning you that there’ll be disturbing photos of my mouth so if you don’t feel like looking, please stop right here.=) You can read my travel and finance posts instead.
But if you’re really curious, then I must tell you what the operation was for. It’s a minor surgery I had undergone to remove a stone in my salivary duct. Maybe now you’re asking, “What the heck is that?!”. Yes, I know how you feel. To be honest, I didn’t know about this condition until I had it. Not even in nursing school or maybe I wasn’t paying attention back then. It makes me very curious about you, guys. Did you know that this stone could exist in your salivary duct? Do you know of anyone who had this? Please tell me about it.
Luckily, it’s nothing very serious. Nothing to be worried too much about. Treatment is done by removing the stone through a minor surgery using local anesthesia under your tongue.
Although it was only minor surgery, I kept asking the question, “Why me?” I feel like I already have a long list of medical history and unusual diseases. I remember I had the worst experience of asthma when I was a child, have intermittent bouts of migraines, no longer have the appendix. Just a year ago I was on treatment for alopecia followed by GERD (Gastroesophageal reflux disease) and now, this.
I know there are people who have far worse medical problems than me. It’s just sometimes you ask these questions, you know. Yes, I know I’m luckier than others. And I am constantly thankful for being alive and healthy every day of my life.
Salivary duct stone/ Wharton Duct Stone/ Sialolithiasis
The real question is, “What is a salivary duct stone?”. Upon research, I’ve learned that there are more names for this condition. It’s also called salivary calculi or salivary stones. It is where a calcified mass or sialolith forms within a salivary gland, usually in the duct.
Salivary stones form when chemicals in the saliva accumulate in the duct or gland. They mostly contain calcium. The exact cause is not known. But factors contributing to less saliva production and/or thickened saliva may be risk factors for salivary stones. These factors include dehydration, poor eating, and use of certain medications including some antihistamines, blood pressure drugs, psychiatric drugs, and bladder control drugs. Trauma to the salivary glands may also raise the risk for salivary stones.
Where did I go wrong? Am I not drinking enough water? (Maybe!) Is it my eating habits? (Probably!) I’m not taking any drugs mentioned. I tell you that, guys. So, what went wrong?
I don’t know where to start but I guess I’ll begin with when I saw the sign for the first time. It was almost the same time when I had my braces on. It was a very tiny nodule at that time. What’s weird is sometimes it’s there and then it’s gone. Of course, I got worried about it. So early on, when I went to see my dentist for my monthly braces’ adjustment, I asked her to check it. She did and said, “Oh, it’s a stone.” She told me I didn’t have to worry unless it gets infected. Infection happens if the area becomes painful. Since I didn’t feel any pain, I didn’t mind it for months. I didn’t research or think too much about it. She advised me to drink lots of water and to rinse my mouth with saline solution or water with salt.
1st symptom: discomfort
Months passed and life goes on. My braces were finally removed but I still have to wear a retainer. This was the time I got alarmed again because my lower retainer touches the area near where the stone was. It’s not painful but it felt very uncomfortable like a feeling that there is really something underneath the thin layer of the skin. When I looked at it in the mirror, it’s reddishly surrounded by a yellowish discoloration. And I thought, maybe it’s now infected because the yellowish color could be pus, a positive sign of infection.
So then, I decided to see an ENT doctor, the specialist in these matters. After work, I asked my closest colleague to go with me to the hospital. Nobody wants to go to the hospital alone, right? The nearest hospital to my workplace is Sukhumvit Hospital, a high-class hospital in Bangkok in my opinion. They have a good reputation for international patients. They treat their patients with care. The staffs are very efficient and organized. The doctor confirmed that indeed, it was a salivary duct stone. She also confirmed that I will need to have a minor surgery for I&D as my treatment plan. Ha!
Treatment plan: surgery
I must have the surgery so I agreed to the doctor’s plan. And perform it as soon as possible. They needed to check the availability of the operating room, verify my insurance coverage (thank goodness for insurance), availability of surgeon, etc. In the end, they couldn’t confirm my insurance because the company’s business hours are only until 5 pm. I went home with a promise of a callback from the hospital once everything is approved.
The phone call came the next day before lunch. I agreed to have it done as soon as possible so the operation was scheduled later in the afternoon. To be honest, I was a little nervous. I know it’ll be easy and quick but still, my nerves were unsettled. I just want it to be done because the anxiety was killing me.
Back to the OR as a patient
I went to the hospital 15 minutes before my scheduled time. They checked my vital signs first. I met another doctor who looked at it again. She applied topical anesthesia under my tongue. Then, I was transported to the OR in a wheelchair. Ha! Once in the OR, I changed into the OR robe, removed my jewelry and head to the actual room with big circular bright lights. It felt strange to be on the operating table again but this time just for a tiny stone in my mouth. But, it’s a procedure that undergoes cutting up so I guess, operating procedures apply. They injected me with anesthesia. I counted it, 4 needle pricks in total. Then, the surgery began. It took only about 10-15 minutes for the entire procedure. I felt numb in my mouth obviously. I only felt the suctioning part and smelled of burned flesh.
Lastly, I was moved to the recovery room. I was the only patient and it felt weird to be there. I can still stand and all that so I told the nurse that I’d rather sit. There is really nothing for them to monitor. My vital signs are just the same. Truthfully, we’re just waiting for the payment to be settled in and if it’s all done, I will be allowed to go out. Minutes later, I was sitting in a wheelchair and was transported to the cashier on the ground floor and then to the pharmacy for my medications.
The total cost amounted to 12,451 THB plus 700 THB for the check-up. I’m glad that the insurance covered all of it including my medications. If not, I won’t be very ecstatic about withdrawing it from my savings.
Now, my salivary duct is destroyed but the stone was removed. I don’t feel any pain post-surgery but I still have to take antibiotics for 7 days as a precaution. I don’t know the implications of this procedure. Maybe it’ll affect my saliva production but I’m just glad it’s gone.
I’m sharing this so you, my beloved readers, would know that this condition exists. So, try to avoid it by eating healthy and drinking liters of water.