Inside Biology

The Mighty Submandibular Glands: Unraveling the Marvels of Saliva Production

The Marvelous Submandibular Glands: Saliva Factories Under the Jaw

Have you ever wondered where that saliva in your mouth comes from and what its purpose is? Look no further than the submandibular glands! These small, but mighty glands play a crucial role in saliva production and delivery, ensuring our mouths stay moist and healthy.

In this article, we will explore the definition and function of submandibular glands, as well as dive into the fascinating world of saliva production and its components.

Definition and Location of Submandibular Glands

The submandibular glands are a type of salivary gland located beneath the jaw on both sides of the face. These glands, also known as submaxillary glands, are one of the three major pairs of salivary glands in the human body.

The other two pairs are the parotid glands, located in front of the ears, and the sublingual glands, situated under the tongue.

Function of Submandibular Glands

The primary function of submandibular glands is to produce saliva, a vital fluid that assists in digestion and maintains oral health. Saliva is composed of water, electrolytes, mucus, enzymes, and antibacterial substances that aid in the breakdown of food and protect our teeth and gums from harmful bacteria.

The production of saliva involves three main types of cells found within the submandibular glands: acinar cells, ductal cells, and myoepithelial cells. Acinar cells, which are the secretory units of the gland, produce a mixture of serous and mucous fluid.

The serous acini produce a watery secretion rich in enzymes, while the mucinous acini produce thick mucus. The combination of these two types of acinar cells results in the secretion of seromucous fluid by the seromucous acinar cells.

Once the fluid is secreted by the acinar cells, it travels through a network of ducts within the submandibular glands. The ductal system consists of intercalated ducts, striated ducts, and excretory ducts, each with its specific function.

Intercalated ducts modify the initial secretion by reabsorbing some of the electrolytes and further diluting the saliva. Striated ducts play a critical role in electrolyte regulation and transport, while excretory ducts carry the saliva to the mouth, where it is delivered via the Wharton duct.

The precise regulation of electrolytes in the saliva is essential for maintaining oral health. The submandibular glands play a significant role in this regulation by controlling the secretion and reabsorption of sodium, potassium, bicarbonate, and chloride ions.

This fine-tuned electrolyte balance ensures that our saliva performs its functions efficiently, such as aiding in taste perception, lubricating the mouth, and protecting against tooth decay. In summary, the submandibular glands, located beneath the jaw, are responsible for producing saliva and delivering it to the mouth via the Wharton duct.

The complex interaction between acinar cells, ductal cells, and myoepithelial cells ensures the production and regulation of saliva, a fluid vital for maintaining our oral health.

Types of Acinar Cells and Saliva Production

The submandibular glands consist of two main types of acinar cells: serous acini and mucinous acini. Serous acini produce a secretion that is predominantly watery and enzyme-rich.

This watery fluid helps to initiate the breakdown of carbohydrates, proteins, and lipids present in the food we consume. On the other hand, mucinous acini produce a thick, viscous mucus that acts as a lubricant, facilitating the swallowing process.

The combined action of serous and mucinous acinar cells results in the secretion of seromucous fluid. This seromucous fluid contains a mixture of both watery and mucus components, allowing for the efficient lubrication and breakdown of food during digestion.

Ductal System and Electrolyte Regulation

Once the seromucous fluid is produced by the acinar cells, it traverses through a series of ducts within the submandibular glands. These ducts are categorized into three types: intercalated ducts, striated ducts, and excretory ducts.

Intercalated ducts, which are the smallest ducts in the gland, play a crucial role in modifying the initial secretion. These ducts absorb and reabsorb certain electrolytes, such as sodium and chloride ions, while diluting the saliva with water.

This modification ensures that the saliva produced is of optimum composition and pH, enabling it to perform its various functions effectively. Striated ducts, which are larger than intercalated ducts, are responsible for further modifying the saliva’s electrolyte content.

They actively transport and modify the concentrations of ions, such as bicarbonate, potassium, and chloride. This process ensures that the saliva maintains a stable pH, which is essential for optimal taste perception and the prevention of dental erosion and decay.

Finally, the modified saliva travels through the excretory ducts, culminating in its delivery to the mouth via the Wharton duct. The Wharton duct is a large duct that extends from the submandibular glands and opens into the floor of the mouth, near the frenulum of the tongue.

It is responsible for transporting the saliva from the glands to the oral cavity.


Submandibular glands are integral to the production and delivery of saliva, a vital fluid that aids in digestion and maintains oral health. The combined action of acinar cells, ductal cells, and myoepithelial cells results in the efficient production and regulation of saliva, ensuring that our mouths stay moist and our teeth and gums remain healthy.

The submandibular glands play a crucial role in electrolyte regulation, saliva composition, and transportation. Understanding the functioning of these remarkable glands is a fascinating insight into the complex processes that occur within our bodies to maintain our overall health and well-being.

The Marvelous Functions of Saliva: An Essential Component of Oral Health

Saliva is often taken for granted, but its importance in maintaining oral health cannot be overstated. This remarkable fluid, produced by the salivary glands, serves a multitude of functions that go well beyond simple moisture.

In this comprehensive article, we will explore the composition and pH of saliva, as well as dive into the vital role it plays in oral health and overall well-being.

Composition and pH of Saliva

Saliva is predominantly composed of water, accounting for about 99% of its content. However, it also contains a variety of electrolytes and other substances that contribute to its unique properties.

Sodium, potassium, calcium, and magnesium are essential electrolytes found in saliva, helping to maintain the overall electrolyte balance in our bodies. Bicarbonate and phosphate ions are also present, contributing to saliva’s buffering capacity.

This buffering capacity allows saliva to help maintain a neutral pH in the mouth, counteracting the acid produced by oral bacteria and preventing dental erosion and decay. The pH level of saliva typically ranges from 6.2 to 7.4.

Immunoglobulins, proteins, enzymes, mucins, urea, and ammonia are additional components found in saliva.

Immunoglobulins, such as IgA, IgG, and IgM, play a crucial role in our immune defense, neutralizing harmful bacteria and preventing infection. Proteins and enzymes in saliva aid in the breakdown of food and contribute to the initial stages of digestion.

Mucins provide lubrication, ensuring smooth movement and swallowing of food. Urea and ammonia act as natural antimicrobial agents, inhibiting the growth of bacteria in the oral cavity.

Role of Saliva in Oral Health

Saliva is a key player in maintaining oral health, carrying out several essential functions that contribute to the overall well-being of our mouths. One crucial role of saliva is in the prevention of dental plaque formation.

Dental plaque is a sticky film consisting of bacteria and food particles that adheres to the teeth. Saliva helps to wash away food debris and bacteria, limiting the plaque’s accumulation.

This cleansing action is aided by saliva’s lubricating properties, which facilitate the movement of food during chewing and swallowing. Saliva also plays a protective role in oral health.

It forms a protective film over the teeth and gums, providing a barrier against harmful acids and bacteria. This protective film, combined with saliva’s high mineral content, supports tooth remineralization.

When our teeth are exposed to acids, such as those produced by bacteria, minerals from saliva, such as calcium and phosphate, help to repair the damaged enamel and promote tooth strength and resilience. In addition to its protective role, saliva has antibacterial properties.

The enzymes and antimicrobial agents present in saliva help to fight harmful bacteria, reducing the risk of oral infections. Saliva’s antimicrobial action helps maintain a healthy balance of oral bacteria, preventing the overgrowth of harmful strains.

Furthermore, saliva contributes to taste sensation. The moisture and soluble substances in saliva dissolve food particles, allowing taste receptors on the tongue to perceive the different tastes, such as sweet, sour, salty, bitter, and umami.

Without sufficient saliva production, our ability to taste and enjoy food would be greatly compromised. In summary, saliva is not merely a lubricating fluid but a vital component of oral health.

Its unique composition and pH, along with its multiple functions, contribute to maintaining a healthy mouth. From preventing dental plaque formation and promoting remineralization to protecting against harmful bacteria and enhancing taste sensation, saliva is truly marvelous in its role in oral health.

Causes of Swollen Submandibular Glands

While submandibular glands are generally reliable and hard-working, they can sometimes become swollen and tender. Several factors can contribute to the swelling of these glands, including:


Viral Infection: Viruses, such as the flu or the common cold, can cause inflammation of the submandibular glands. The glands may become enlarged as a result of the immune system’s response to the infection.

2. Benign Lymphoepithelial Lesions: Benign lymphoepithelial lesions are non-cancerous growths that can develop in the submandibular glands.

These growths, which are often associated with HIV infection, can cause glandular swelling and discomfort. 3.

Malignant Lymphoepithelial Lesions: Malignant lymphoepithelial lesions, also known as lymphomas, are cancerous growths that can affect the submandibular glands. These lesions can result in glandular enlargement and other systemic symptoms.

4. Dehydration: Dehydration can lead to reduced saliva production, resulting in swelling of the submandibular glands.

It is crucial to maintain proper hydration to ensure adequate saliva production and prevent glandular dysfunction. 5.

Stenosis: Stenosis refers to the narrowing of the salivary ducts, which can impede the flow of saliva from the submandibular glands. This obstruction can cause glandular swelling, pain, and even infection.

6. Sialectasis: Sialectasis is a condition characterized by the dilation and distension of the salivary ducts.

The accumulated saliva can lead to glandular swelling, discomfort, and potential infection. 7.

Salivary Gland Stones: Submandibular gland stones, also known as sialoliths, can obstruct the salivary ducts, resulting in glandular swelling. These stones form when minerals in the saliva crystallize and become lodged in the ducts.

8. Sialadenitis: Sialadenitis refers to the inflammation of the salivary glands, often caused by bacterial infection.

This inflammation can cause the submandibular glands to become swollen, tender, and painful. 9.

Sialoadenosis: Sialoadenosis is a condition characterized by the non-inflammatory enlargement of the salivary glands, including the submandibular glands. It is often associated with systemic conditions such as endocrine disorders, malnutrition, and alcoholism.

Symptoms and Diagnosis of Swollen Submandibular Glands

When the submandibular glands become swollen, several symptoms may accompany the condition. The most notable symptom is the swelling of the glands themselves, which can be felt as a lump or enlargement under the jaw.

The swelling may be accompanied by pain and tenderness in the affected area. In some cases, the swelling may extend to the nearby lymph nodes, causing them to become enlarged and palpable.

These enlarged lymph nodes can sometimes be tender to touch and serve as an indicator of an underlying infection or inflammation. To diagnose the cause of swollen submandibular glands, a healthcare professional will conduct a thorough examination.

This examination may involve palpation of the swollen glands and lymph nodes to assess their size, consistency, and tenderness. Additionally, the healthcare professional may inquire about other symptoms, such as fever, systemic illnesses, recent infections, and dietary habits.

This information, along with the physical examination, will help narrow down the possible causes of the swelling. Further tests, such as blood work, imaging studies, or biopsy, may be ordered to confirm the diagnosis.

In conclusion, swollen submandibular glands can occur due to various factors, ranging from viral infections to glandular lesions or obstructions. Recognizing the symptoms and seeking proper medical evaluation is crucial for determining the underlying cause and initiating appropriate treatment.

The Excruciating Reality of Submandibular Gland Pain: Causes and Conditions

Pain in the submandibular glands can be an incredibly uncomfortable and distressing experience. These small glands, located beneath the jaw, are susceptible to various conditions that can lead to pain and discomfort.

In this comprehensive addition to our article, we will explore the causes of submandibular gland pain, as well as delve into specific conditions and their associated symptoms.

Causes of Submandibular Gland Pain

Several factors can contribute to submandibular gland pain, each with its unique set of causes. Understanding these causes is crucial in identifying the underlying issue and seeking appropriate treatment.

Common causes of submandibular gland pain include:

1. Blocked Duct: The submandibular gland duct, also known as the Wharton duct, can become blocked due to various reasons.

Blockages can result from hardened saliva or debris, inflammation, or strictures within the duct. When the duct is blocked, the accumulation of saliva within the gland can cause pain and swelling.

2. Nerve Pain: Nerve-related issues, such as neuralgia or neuropathy, can result in submandibular gland pain.

When the nerves responsible for transmitting pain signals from the gland are irritated or damaged, it can lead to persistent or recurring pain. 3.

Sialolithiasis: Sialolithiasis, or salivary gland stones, occurs when calcifications or stone-like deposits form within the submandibular gland or its duct. These stones can obstruct the normal flow of saliva, leading to pain, swelling, and inflammation.

4. Sialadenitis: Sialadenitis refers to the inflammation of the salivary glands, including the submandibular glands.

This inflammation can occur due to bacterial infection, viral infection, or autoimmune disorders. Sialadenitis can result in pain, swelling, and tenderness in the affected gland.

5. Infections: Infections, such as bacterial or viral infections, can cause submandibular gland pain.

These infections can lead to inflammation, swelling, and discomfort in the gland area. 6.

Tumors: Both benign and malignant tumors can affect the submandibular glands, leading to pain and other symptoms. Tumors can cause glandular enlargement, pressure on surrounding structures, and nerve involvement, resulting in varying degrees of pain.

7. Autoimmune Disorders: Autoimmune disorders, such as Sjgren’s syndrome, can cause inflammation and dysfunction of the salivary glands, including the submandibular glands.

These conditions can lead to chronic pain and dryness in the glandular area.

Specific Conditions and Symptoms

Submandibular gland pain can manifest in various ways depending on the underlying condition. Understanding the specific conditions and their associated symptoms is crucial for appropriate diagnosis and management.

Some of the specific conditions related to submandibular gland pain include:

1. Pain and Swelling: Pain in the submandibular gland area is a common symptom in many conditions.

The pain may be sharp, dull, or throbbing and can range in intensity. Swelling may also accompany the pain, causing discomfort and visible enlargement of the gland.

2. Diagnosis: Proper diagnosis of the underlying condition is vital in determining the appropriate treatment plan.

Your healthcare professional may conduct a thorough physical examination, palpating the gland and surrounding structures for tenderness, swelling, or abnormalities. Further diagnostic tests, such as imaging studies (ultrasound, CT scan, or MRI), blood tests, or biopsy, may be employed to ascertain the cause of the pain.

3. Benign or Malignant Tumors: Pain in the submandibular gland area can be indicative of a benign or malignant tumor.

Benign tumors, such as pleomorphic adenomas, if large enough, can cause discomfort and pressure on surrounding tissues. Malignant tumors, on the other hand, can lead to persistent pain and other symptoms, prompting further investigation and treatment.

4. Sjgren’s Syndrome: Sjgren’s syndrome is an autoimmune disorder characterized by dryness in various parts of the body, including the salivary glands.

Dryness of the submandibular glands can result in pain and discomfort, along with other associated symptoms, such as dry eyes and dry mouth. 5.

Smoking and Radiation: Chronic smoking and exposure to radiation, such as during cancer treatment, can lead to damage to the salivary glands, including the submandibular glands. This damage can result in pain, dryness, and decreased saliva production.

In summary, submandibular gland pain can be caused by a variety of factors, ranging from duct blockages and nerve pain to infections and tumors. Recognizing the specific conditions and their associated symptoms is crucial in determining the underlying cause and seeking appropriate treatment.

Proper diagnosis, through physical examination and diagnostic tests, enables healthcare professionals to devise an effective management plan that alleviates pain and addresses the underlying condition. In conclusion, the submandibular glands are vital components of our oral health, responsible for producing saliva and maintaining moisture in the mouth.

They play a crucial role in digestion, protection against bacteria, lubrication, and the prevention of dental problems. Understanding their anatomy, functions, and common conditions that can affect them is important for maintaining oral well-being.

Whether it’s recognizing the causes of submandibular gland pain or understanding the composition and functions of saliva, this knowledge empowers us to take proactive steps toward good oral health. So, let’s appreciate the marvelous submandibular glands and their role in keeping our smiles healthy and bright.

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