Definition of Gland, salivary
Gland, salivary: One of the glands in the mouth that produce saliva. There are 3 major salivary glands. They are the parotid, submandibular, and sublingual glands. Each of these glands is paired; there is one parotid gland on each side of the head, etc. The parotid glands are located in front of the ears; the submandibular glands are under the mandible (the lower jaw); and the sublingual glands are under the tongue. Most of the mucosal surfaces within the mouth also contain many minor mucus-secreting salivary glands.
Abnormal sublingual and submandibular glands can be felt when the floor of the mouth is palpated (felt) bimanually (with two hands). Enlargement of the parotid gland can occur in front of the ear or overlying the mandible.
The salivary glands can be affected in various diseases. For example, in Sjogren syndrome the salivary glands are infiltrated with lymphocytes and the salivary gland ducts are damaged. The glands atrophy (waste away) so there is less saliva, resulting in extreme dryness of the mouth and lips (xerostomia) that inhibits chewing and swallowing and promotes tooth decay and formation of the calculi (stones) in the salivary ducts.
In mumps, there is characteristically painful swelling of the salivary glands, most commonly the parotid glands. The mumps virus enters through the mouth and may be found in saliva for days before the salivary glands swell and for the duration of glandular enlargement. Pain on chewing or swallowing, especially acidic liquids such as lemon juice, is the earliest symptom of parotid gland involvement. The parotid (and any other swollen salivary glands) are typically very tender. There is usually marked swelling over both parotid glands giving the well-known chipmunk appearance.
Tumors can arise in the salivary glands, most commonly occur in the parotid glands followed by the submandibular and minor glands and, least often, sublingual glands. About three-quarters of salivary tumors are benign slow-growing tumors. They are typically painless nodules beneath normal skin or the mucosal lining of the mouth. The most common is the mixed salivary gland tumor (a benign pleomorphic adenoma). It occurs predominantly in women over 40. Malignancies can occur within such tumors., resulting in carcinoma. The treatment is surgery.
Last Editorial Review: 6/14/2012
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