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Salivary glands

Normal Anatomy

Reviewer: Fatima Aly, M.D., National Institutes of Health (see Reviewers page)
Revised: 1 August 2010, last major update August 2010
Copyright: (c) 2004-2010, PathologyOutlines.com, Inc.


Parotid gland
- Largest salivary gland (15-30g), 6 x 3 cm
- Has broad superficial lobe and smaller deeper lobe, with facial nerve usually between both lobes
- Difficult to surgically remove all parotid tissue
- Stensenís duct (main duct) empties into oral cavity opposite crown of second maxillary molar
- 20% have accessory parotid gland and duct, usually overlying the masseter
- Parotid gland has 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

Submandibular gland
- Called submaxillary gland because British anatomists refer to mandible as ďsubmaxillaĒ
- In submandibular triangle formed by anterior and posterior bellies of digastric muscle and inferior margin of mandible
- Weighs 50% of parotid gland (7-15g)
- Has own capsule, which is continuous with superficial layer of deep cervical fascia
- Whartonís duct (submandibular duct) empties into floor of mouth on both sides of tongue frenulum at sublingual caruncula
- Lingual nerve wraps around Whartonís duct, CN XII runs inferior and parallel to Whartonís duct
- No lymph nodes within capsule, but 3-6 adjacent lymph nodes in submandibular triangle

Sublingual gland
- Smallest of major salivary glands (2-4g)
- Lies deep to 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 (Bartholinís duct), which typically empties into Whartonís duct
- Bartholinís 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

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 Ebnerís glands which are serous glands located in the circumvallate papillae of the tongue

Diagrams and Images

Parotid gland


Major blood vessels         Local anatomy

AFIP Figure 1-6: The 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. The submandibular lymph nodes are all extraglandular.

AFIP Figure 1-5: This illustration represents a horizontal section through the lateral portion of the pharynx and mandible at the level of the mastoid process. The parotid gland is traversed by the facial nerve, and the deep portion of the gland narrows and is bounded by the posterior of the ramus of the mandible, muscles of the styloid process and medial pterygoid muscle. Right: Tumors that arise within the deep portion of the gland may expand into the lateral pharyngeal space and produce swelling of the lateral pharyngeal wall.

AFIP Figure 1-4: This 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. The parotid gland duct (Stensen's duct) crosses the masseter muscle and penetrates the buccal tissues. Lobules of accessory parotid tissue are located along the course of the duct.

AFIP Figure 1-7: This illustration of the medial surface of the mandible and mylohyoid muscle shows the relationship of the submandibular, sublingual and parotid glands. The submandibular duct (Wharton's duct) runs anteriorly to the anterior floor of the mouth.

Submandibular gland


Surrounding structures

Sublingual gland

Surrounding structures

AFIP Figure 1-7: The 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.

Additional references


End of Salivary glands > Normal Anatomy

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