Salivary glands are the glands that generate saliva or “spit”. Saliva is important for lubrication for chewing and swallowing, aiding digestion, and protection of the teeth and soft tissues of the oral cavity. The salivary glands consist of three large paired glands – parotid, submandibular, and sublingual glands. Additionally there are hundreds to thousands of small, unnamed minor salivary glands that are found throughout the mouth.
Diseases of the salivary glands can vary from blocked ducts, to benign or malignant tumors of the salivary glands. Diseases affecting the salivary glands can be diagnosed on clinical exam but some require investigations with CT or MRI imaging and tissue sampling through needle aspiration or biopsy depending on the location. Of greater relevance are parotid gland tumors because the facial nerve the controls the movement of the muscles of facial expression passes through the gland. Surgery requires meticulous removal to avoid injury to this nerve.
If you have been diagnosed with a salivary gland lesion, talk to one of our Oral Cancer Institute surgeons about your treatment options.