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by Eric Bergson, MD
We each have four major salivary glands. Deep within each cheek is the parotid gland, and under the edge of each jaw is the submandibular gland. These glands produce saliva, which flows through narrow ducts to empty into the mouth. The submandibular gland duct enters the mouth near the midline under the tongue, while the parotid duct enters near the upper molars. In addition to the major salivary glands, there are thousands of minor salivary glands of various sizes throughout the mouth and throat.
A variety of disease processes can effect the salivary glands. Salivary gland infections are quite common and often need to be treated with antibiotics. People can develop salivary gland stones which can obstruct the flow of saliva, resulting in swelling and pain. These stones may pass on their own, or can be removed using a variety of techniques and procedures. Tumors, both benign and malignant, arise from the salivary glands. Luckily most salivary gland tumors are benign and can be treated with simple excision. However, cancers can occur which may require more extensive surgery, radiation therapy, and other treatments. Talk to your doctor for more information about salivary gland disorders and their treatments.