The Salivary Glands produce saliva which moistens food to facilitate chewing and swallowing. Saliva contains enzymes which initiate the digestion process by breaking down food before it reaches the stomach. In addition, saliva cleanses the mouth by washing away bacteria and food particles, and thus, helps prevent tooth decay.
The Salivary Glands empty saliva into the mouth, through ducts that open at various locations in the mouth. There are three pairs of major (large) Salivary Glands. In addition, there are many tiny glands called minor Salivary Glands located in the lips, inner cheek area (buccal mucosa), and extensively in other linings of the mouth and throat.
The major Salivary Glands are:
- Parotid Glands The two Parotid Glands are located in front of the ears, in the cheeks. These are the largest Salivary Glands.
- Submandibular Glands The two Submandibular Glands are located under the jaw, in the upper neck.
- Sublingual GlandsThe two Sublingual Glands are the smallest major Salivary Glands and are located under the tongue, in the front of the mouth.