Salivary glands

Last revised by Daniel J Bell on 31 Mar 2023

The salivary glands within the head and neck secrete various enzymes useful for mastication and digestion. They can be divided into major and minor salivary glands:

The major salivary glands consist of the larger, paired salivary glands within the neck:

There are up to 600 minor salivary glands located throughout the oral cavity within the lamina propria of the oral mucosa. They are 1-2 mm in diameter and are not encapsulated, unlike the major salivary glands. Instead, they are simply surrounded by connective tissue.

Deep salivary glands are also known as von Ebner glands and are found within the circumvallate papillae of the tongue 1.

In 2020, Valstar et al 4 reported the discovery of previously overlooked salivary tissue in the nasopharynx. PSMA-positive, paired structures with mucous glands on histology were identified near the torus tubarius. These may explain radiotherapy-associated xerostomia.

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Cases and figures

  • Figure 1: salivary glands on CT neck (annotated)
    Drag here to reorder.
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