Salivary Glands Definition and Parts

Concerning the salivary glands definition, these are glandular structures present at various locations in and around the oral cavity, they are responsible for the secretion of important digestive enzymes and fluids that help in the digestion and lubrication of dietary substances in your mouth.

Ptyalin or salivary amylase and lipase are secreted by these ducted exocrine glands and are responsible for the oral digestion of food. Composed of cluster of secretary cells, called acini, they also synthesize mucous, water and electrolytes that are then released into the collecting ducts.

Among the different types of salivary glands, submandibular, sublingual and parotid are more important as each of which is assigned a particular task to perform.

The large particles of food are ground into smaller ones that are then moistened and converted into a semi-solid mass of partly digested food (almost round in shape) which you tem as 'bolus'.

Some painful medical condition may arise out of the malfunctioning of salivary glands which cause severe disturbances in the region but can easily be relieved through various treatment measures.

Salivary Glands

Parts of Salivary Glands

Based on their function and particular location in and around the mouth cavity, the saliva secreting organs can be divided into different types, viz. sublingual glands, submandibular glands, Von Ebnor's glands, parotid glands and minor salivary glands.

Parotid is present behind the mandibular ramus and constitutes the largest of salivary glands that releases its serous secretions into the oral chamber through Stensen's duct. Pouring the mucus and serous fluids into the mouth through Wharton's duct, the submandibular glands are found beneath the jaws.

As the very name suggests, sublingual glands are located beneath the tongue and contribute about five percent of the salivary secretions in the oral chamber.

Scattered across mucosa in the mouth, there are about 800 to 1000 minor salivary gland parts or that are surrounded by connective tissue and secrete mucous that is delivered to the oral cavity through a shared excretory duct.

Functions of Salivary Glands

The enzymes in saliva make an important contribution to the initiation of digestive processes in the oral cavity.

Like other biological catalysts, the salivary enzymes are host specific and act on particular substances only, i.e. amylase breaks down starch into simpler molecules of maltose while salivary lipase carries out the chemical breakdown of lipids. Von Ebnor's glands not only facilitate the perception of taste but also secrete serous fluid to carry out the hydrolysis of lipid substances.

The enzymatic secretions of salivary glands also play a significant role in the maintenance of your teeth hygiene as trapped particles between the teeth are digested and washed away, thus preventing the tooth decay.

The products of these structures are also responsible for the lubrication and softening of the food being masticated and digested in the cavity.

As the bolus (partially digested food mass) enters the stomach through cardiac sphincter, many of the salivary enzymes are inactivated due to the strongly acidic medium, while there are some which are activated therein.

Diseases of Salivary Glands

Being located in the environmentally exposed part of the body, the salivary structures succumb to a number of diseases that not only cause severe disturbances in their functioning but also lead to painful symptoms.

For example, sialadenitis is a painful infectious disorder that is caused by the harmful bacterial species. In sialolithiasis, small salivary stones (or sialoliths) are formed in the glands due to the accumulation of calcium mineral.

Different viral infections result into the enlargement of organs. The tumors commonly grow in the parotid glands and can be either cancerous or benign.

Physiotherapy, use of antibiotics, anti-viral drugs and surgical treatment may be suggested by your health care provider depending on the type and severity of the disorder.

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About the Author

Posted by: M. Isaac / Senior writer

A graduate in biological sciences and a PhD scholar (NCBA&E University, Lahore), M. Isaac combines his vast experience with a keen and critical eye to create practical and inherently engaging content on the human body. His background as a researcher and instructor at a secondary school enables him to best understand the needs of the beginner level learners and the amateur readers and educate them about how their body works, and how they can adopt a healthier lifestyle.

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