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Salivary glands

Learning objectives

This study unit will help you to:

  1. Identify the major and minor salivary glands.
  2. Master the location, structure and function of each major salivary gland.
  3. Distinguish between the different types of salivary glands.
  4. Appreciate the important relations of the major salivary glands.

Watch video

The salivary glands are exocrine tubuloacinar structures whose excretory ducts open into the oral cavity. As their name indicates, the main function of these glands is to secrete saliva, a seromucous liquid that has several major functions within the oral cavity including lubrication, digestion, physicochemical/immune defence and taste transmission. The total daily output of saliva in an adult is about 1.5 liters. The major salivary glands are the paired parotid, submandibular and sublingual glands. Additionally, there are as many as 600 minor salivary glands scattered throughout the oral cavity.

This video tutorial will provide you with an overview of the salivary glands.

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Browse atlas

You can now observe each structure in more detail with our image gallery: 


Key points about the salivary glands
Definition Salivary glands are tubuloacinar exocrine glands whose ducts open into the oral cavity and secrete saliva.
Parotid gland Location: Preauricular region
: Serous gland
Excretory duct
: Parotid duct (of Stensen) (opens on buccal wall at the level of maxillary second molar)
Blood supply
: Branches of the external carotid artery (superficial temporal artery, maxillary artery, transverse facial artery)
: Auriculotemporal nerve, glossopharyngeal nerve, external carotid plexus
Submandibular gland Location: Submandibular triangle
: Mixed gland
Excretory duct:
Submandibular duct (of Wharton) (opens at sublingual papilla under tongue)
Blood supply
: Sublingual artery, submental artery
: Chorda tympani (CN VII)
Sublingual gland Location: Beneath the sublingual fold
: Mucous gland
Excretory duct:
Major sublingual duct (of Bartholin), minor sublingual ducts (of Rivinius) (open along sublingual folds)
Blood supply:
Sublingual artery, submental artery
: Chorda tympani (CN VII)

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