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Submandibular Gland: Location, Function, and Complications

It can be challenging to understand all the terminology associated with anatomy and medical conditions. What are the submandibular glands? Do they have any function in the digestive system? Where can you find yours? We're here to walk you through your submandibular glands' form, function, and related health conditions.

What You Should Know

Saliva (also called spit) is a vital part of your biology that helps supply minerals, remove food matter, and maintain your mouth’s health. It helps with speaking, eating, chewing, and even aids digestion.

Saliva has various functions, including:

  • Supplies minerals to your teeth’s enamel
  • Lubricates and moisturizes your mouth and throat
  • Starts digestion by helping break down food with moisture and enzymes
  • Manages the pH level (acidity) of your mouth
  • Helps prevent cavities and gum disease

Saliva is produced by major and minor salivary glands located around your throat and mouth. You have three different types of glands that are responsible for supplying saliva:

  1. Submandibular glands, located below your chin
  2. Parotid glands, located below your ears
  3. Sublingual glands, located below your tongue

Submandibular Gland Complications

Various things can go wrong with your salivary glands and cause symptoms, including your submandibular glands. It’s essential to address the underlying cause of the symptoms you’re experiencing to improve your health and to prevent other medical problems in the future.

Complications of your submandibular gland may include:

Malfunction

Because your salivary glands’ main function is to produce saliva, they typically underproduce when not properly performing. This lack of saliva leads to a symptom known as dry mouth.

Causes that can lead to salivary underproduction include:

  • Medical conditions
  • Prescription medications, over-the-counter medications, and illegal drugs
  • History of radiation therapy
  • Dehydration
  • Anxiety

Stones

Saliva contains salts that can accumulate into a stone, especially in those who are dehydrated, take illegal drugs, or have gout. Some experience pain with these stones, while others have no symptoms at all.

Those with stones are more likely to develop an infection, and a stone can sometimes block your duct, leading to pain and swelling.

Inflammation and Swelling

Inflammation of your salivary glands (also known as sialadenitis) is a rare condition most often caused by virus or bacteria, according to the Cleveland Clinic. This condition is more likely to occur if you’re recovering from surgery, ill, elderly, dehydrated, or have poor nutrition, oral hygiene, or a weakened immune system.

Other health conditions like Sjögren's syndrome, rheumatoid arthritis, and lupus can also cause enlarged salivary glands, according to the Merck Manuals. Swelling can also result from tumors, but it’s important to remember that some tumors are benign (harmless) while some are cancerous.

Diagnosis and Treatment

If you’re experiencing symptoms or believe you have an issue with your salivary glands, it’s vital to schedule an appointment with your dental or medical professional for expert diagnosis and treatment recommendations.

During diagnosis, your dental or medical professional may recommend further tests to help determine the source of your symptoms.

Tests to diagnose your submandibular gland condition may include:

  • Biopsy
  • Endoscopy
  • Cultures (for infection)
  • Imaging (including x-rays, CT scans, or MRI scans)

Determining the proper treatment for your condition will vary depending on your individual health and its underlying cause. You’ve done a great job by educating yourself on your submandibular gland's anatomy and associated health conditions.

This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.

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