Salivary gland

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Q. Is saliva important

A.  Why is saliva so important to us

That thin transparent fluid that is emitted as spittle/spit, the best and least understood protective barrier against oral diseases and for the early digestion of food (via salivary amylase) is saliva. It is relevant for smooth speech too. Secretion of the parotid and other salivary glands protects your teeth against decay, and sensitivity by neutralising acids in the mouth after virtually any and every intake of food substances. It works to prevent bad breath too. Poor quality saliva can worsen oral health and make everything from breath to taste to speech a difficult daily trek.

What are the reasons for poor quality Saliva

Poor quality saliva is seen in

A) Old age B) In people who are under lots of medication C) High alcohol, tobacco, recreational drugs and caffeine intake D) Severely acidogenic foods E) Poor general health F) Dehydration in any form exertion sporting and running G) Oral diseases of salivary glands and mouth cancer, Sjogren’s syndrome etc. H) Cancer patients and after radiation and/or chemotherapy.

What are Signs and Symptoms of salivary gland disease I should look for

A) Dry mouth B) Food sticking in the mouth and difficulty in swallowing C) Altered taste of usual foods D) Halitosis/bad breathe

Ask your dentist to:

A) Prescribe useful preferably fluoridated toothpaste, mouthwash, floss, interdental brushes B) Recommend sugar-free gum C) Artificial saliva substitute in case of severe dry mouth due to disease or multiple medication therapy D) High fluoride mouthwashes and toothpastes in medically indicated cases E) Early dental/periodontal intervention to minimize discomfort, early loss of teeth and expensive dental care

An ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure

#1 is the Parotid gland; #2 is the Submandibular gland; #3 is the Sublingual gland.[1]

The salivary glands make saliva. Saliva keeps the mouth and other parts of the digestive system wet and slippery. They also help break down the food when you are chewing. This helps food go down the throat to the stomach.

There are three main pairs of salivary glands.[1] They are

  1. the parotid,
  2. the submandibular and
  3. the sublingual glands.

There are also many small glands in the tongue, cheeks, lips and palate. All of those glands make mucous.

Salivary secretions and structure[change | change source]

Saliva consists of two fluids, mucous and serous.

Mucous[change | change source]

Mucous (slime) is a saccharide glycoprotein called mucin. With water it makes the slippery lubricant used in many parts of the body, where it lines the moving parts, surfaces and tubes. Here it lubricates the mouth, throat and alimentary canal.

The mucous also has antiseptic qualities: it contains lysozyme and immunoglobulins. Mucous, with its antiseptic molecules and slime, traps fungi, bacteria and viruses and prevent infections. The body produces about a litre of mucous per day, in the mouth and other places.[2]

Serous[change | change source]

The serous fluid contains the enzyme amylase which acts in the digestion of carbohydrates. Minor salivary glands on the tongue secrete the amylase. The parotid gland produces purely serous saliva. The other major salivary glands produce mixed (serous and mucus) saliva.

Another type of serous fluid is secreted by the two layered serous membranes which line the body cavities. The serous fluid between the two layers acts as a lubricant and reduces friction from muscle movement.

Types of salivary gland[change | change source]

  • The parotid gland makes serous secretions only.
  • The submandibular glands are mixed glands. They give serous and mucous secretions.
  • The sublingual glands make mucous only.

Structure of salivary glands[change | change source]

The glands are inside a capsule, of connective tissue. Inside, it is made of little parts called lobules. Blood vessels and nerves go into the lobules. There are three main types of cells in the major salivary glands:

  1. Serous cells are shaped like a pyramid. They are joined together in a group that is shaped like a ball.
  2. Mucous cells are usually shaped like a cube. They are joined together to make a tubules, which are very small tubes.
  3. Myoepithelial cells are all around the part of the gland where the saliva comes out. They can squeeze the saliva gland so the saliva comes out faster.

The small tubes go into ducts. Those ducts go into larger ducts that have little stripes on them, called striations. Those go into ducts between the lobes of the gland (called interlobar or excretory ducts). The main duct of the salivary glands then opens into the mouth.

Where the glands are[change | change source]

There are three salivary glands:

Medical notes[change | change source]

See mumps

Ducts can get blocked. This would cause pain and swelling of the gland.

Tumours of the salivary glands can occur. These are usually benign. Investigation is done by a sialogram, which is a radiocontrast study of a salivary duct.

References[change | change source]

  1. 1.0 1.1 Fehrenbach; Herring 2007. Illustrated head and neck anatomy. Elsevier. 170–171
  2. "What's a booger?". KidsHealth.

Other websites[change | change source]