Salivary glands
Normal
Normal Anatomy

Author: Sally Tanakchi (see Authors page)
Editor: F. Zahra Aly, M.D., Ph.D.

Revised: 9 March 2018, last major update September 2015

Copyright: (c) 2002-2018, PathologyOutlines.com, Inc.

PubMed Search: Salivary glands[TI] anatomy[TIAB]
Cite this page: Tanakchi, S. Normal Anatomy. PathologyOutlines.com website. http://www.pathologyoutlines.com/topic/salivaryglandsnormalanatomy.html. Accessed April 22nd, 2018.
Definition / general
  • Parotid gland:
    • Largest salivary gland (15 - 30 g), 6 x 3 cm
    • It is wrapped around the mandibular ramus, has broad superficial lobe and smaller deeper lobe, with facial nerve usually between both lobes
    • Provides only 25% of the total salivary volume but on stimulation, the parotid secretion rises to 50%
    • Stensen duct (main duct) empties into the oral cavity opposite crown of second maxillary molar
    • 20% have accessory parotid gland and duct, usually overlying the masseter muscle
    • Parotid gland has its own fascia (capsule), which is continuous with superficial layer of deep cervical fascia
    • Contains 3 - 24 lymph nodes (not all with complete structural organization), usually lateral to facial nerve in superficial lobe
    • Blood supply: external carotid artery and its terminal branches
    • Venous return: retromandibular vein
    • Lymphatic drainage: preauricular lymph nodes that drain to the deep cervical chain
    • Nerve supply: mainly autonomic through the glossopharyngeal nerve
    • Vascular bundle (retromandibular vein, external carotid artery, superficial temporal artery and maxillary artery) lies medial to facial nerve

  • Submandibular gland:
    • Divided into superficial and deep lobes, separated by the myelohyoid muscle
    • In submandibular triangle formed by anterior and posterior bellies of digastric muscle and inferior margin of mandible
    • Weighs 50% of parotid gland (7 - 15 g)
    • Provides 60 - 65% of the total salivary volume
    • Wharton duct (submandibular duct) empties into the floor of mouth on both sides of the tongue frenulum at sublingual caruncla
    • Lingual nerve wraps around Wharton duct, CN XII runs inferior and parallel to Wharton duct
    • Has its own capsule, which is continuous with superficial layer of deep cervical fascia
    • No lymph nodes within the capsule but 3 - 6 adjacent lymph nodes in submandibular triangle
    • Blood supply: sublingual and submental arteries
    • Venous return: anterior facial vein
    • Lymphatic drainage: submandibular nodes to upper deep cervical nodes
    • Nerve supply: direct by sympathetic nervous system (facial artery plexus) and indirect by parasympathetic nervous system (chorda tympani)

  • Sublingual gland:
    • Smallest of major salivary glands (2 - 4 g)
    • Lies deep to the floor of oral mucosa between mandible and genioglossus muscle
    • Has no true fascial capsule
    • Has no single dominant duct but is drained by 10 small ducts (ducts of Rivinus)
    • Occasionally, several of more anterior ducts may join to form a common duct (Bartholin duct), which typically empties into Wharton duct
    • Bartholin duct unites with the submandibular duct just prior to its opening into the oral cavity at the sublingual caruncula on both sides of tongue frenulum
    • Blood supply: sublingual and submental arteries
    • Venous return: sublingual vein
    • Lymphatic drainage: submandibular lymph nodes
    • Nerve supply: lingual and chorda tympani nerve (from facial nerve) provides parasympathetic supply

  • Minor salivary glands:
    • Except for the gingiva and anterior hard palate, minor salivary glands (500 - 1000, 1 - 5 mm each) are located throughout the submucosa of the oral cavity
    • More numerous in posterior hard palate
    • Each salivary unit has its own simple duct
    • Most of these minor salivary glands are mucinous with the main exception of Ebner glands, which are serous glands located in the circumvallate papillae of the tongue

Diagrams / tables

Images hosted on PathOut server:
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Parotid gland has several periparotid (dark outline) and intraparotid
(shaded) lymph nodes that drain portions of the ear, temporal region,
lateral face, eyelids and conjunctiva; they in turn drain into the internal
jugular lymph nodes; submandibular lymph nodes are all extraglandular


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Horizontal section through lateral portion of pharynx and mandible at level of mastoid process; parotid
gland is traversed by facial nerve and deep portion of gland narrows and is bounded by posterior of ramus
of mandible, muscles of styloid process and medial pterygoid muscle; right: tumors that arise within deep
portion of gland may expand into lateral pharyngeal space and produce swelling of lateral pharyngeal wall


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Lateral view of the head shows the anatomic position and relationship of the parotid
and submandibular glands to the ear, zygomatic arch, mandible and masseter muscle;
parotid gland duct (Stensen duct) crosses the masseter muscle and penetrates the buccal
tissues; lobules of accessory parotid tissue are located along the course of the duct


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Medial surface of the mandible and mylohyoid muscle
shows the relationship of the submandibular, sublingual
and parotid glands; submandibular duct (Wharton duct)
runs anteriorly to the anterior floor of the mouth

Radiology images

Images hosted on other servers:
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Figures 1a and 3a: normal anatomy

Clinical images

Images hosted on PathOut server:
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Right and left submandibular ducts (arrows)
course anteriomedially in the floor of the
mouth to openings at the lingual carunculae,
which are only a few millimeters apart