Salivary glands are of the most crucial and essential part of our mouth. All the salivary glands in our mouth make as much as a quart of saliva every single day.
Saliva is an essential component in the mouth; it lubricates the oral tissues and keeps them moist, helps in swallowing, flushes out the food debris and bacteria from the tooth surface and assists in maintaining good oral hygiene.
There are three major salivary glands coupled with several minor salivary glands that contribute to the salivary production in the mouth.
One among the group of the major salivary gland is sublingual salivary gland.
Sublingual salivary gland is located in the floor of the mouth, on either side of the frenulum under the tongue.
It mainly deals with the secretion of mucous saliva, which is a mixture of glycoproteins, mucin, and water.
As essential as the sublingual salivary glands may be for the proper functioning of the mouth, there are specific health issues that can occur in these salivary glands
Some of the common sublingual salivary gland problems include the presence of salivary stones, sialadenitis and Sjogren’s syndrome.
Let’s continue to read further and find out the functions of the sublingual salivary gland and the disorders associated with this gland.
What is a sublingual salivary gland?
Sublingual salivary gland is also known as the mucous salivary gland is one among three major salivary glands present in the mouth.
They are located anterior to the submandibular gland below the tongue.
Unlike the salivary ducts of the other two major salivary glands, the sublingual salivary duct is neither intercalated nor straight. This facilitates the exit of saliva directly from a group of 8-20 excretory ducts called as the Rivinius ducts. (1)
What is the function of sublingual salivary gland?
Like any other salivary gland, sublingual salivary gland functions in the production and secretion of saliva in the mouth.
Saliva is primarily an extracellular fluid that contains 99% of water along with electrolytes, mucus, cellular enzymes, and antimicrobial agents.
It is one of the natural means of moistening the oral tissues and maintaining good oral hygiene. (2)
Sublingual salivary gland mainly secretes mucous saliva and accounts for around 5% of the total salivary production in the mouth.
What are the common sublingual salivary gland disorders?
Several diseases can affect the functions of the salivary gland. While most of these conditions can be treated easily with antibiotics, some of them may require serious attention and surgical intervention.
Some of the common sublingual salivary gland disorders are as follows –
Sialadenitis and salivary stones
Salivary stones are formed by calcium deposition in the salivary glands. These stones often block the glands and stop the flow of saliva either wholly or partially. (3)
Symptoms of salivary stones may include –
- Presence of a painful lump in the floor of the mouth or under the tongue
- Difficulty in eating
- Swelling around the affected salivary gland while chewing
Sialadenitis, on the other hand, is an inflammatory condition of the salivary gland. It is primarily caused by a bacterial infection, which results in blockage of salivary flow.
Infants and older adults have a higher risk of developing sialadenitis. The bacterial strains that cause this infection are Staphylococcus or Streptococcus species.
Symptoms of sialadenitis include –
- Prominent swelling under the tongue
- Pus drainage in the mouth
- Persistent foul smell
Sjogren’s syndrome is a common salivary gland immune disorder. Symptoms of this syndrome include dry mouth, swollen salivary glands, dry eyes, skin rashes, pain and swelling of the joints.
Sjogren’s syndrome is caused due to an immune attack on white blood cells. This condition is common in people suffering from other autoimmune diseases such as lupus.
Other salivary disorders may include –
- Viral infections like mumps, flu virus, coxsackievirus. These infections often cause joint pain, muscle spasm, swelling of the gland associated with fever and headache.
- Formation of cancerous or non-cancerous tumors like adenocarcinoma of the sublingual salivary gland. (4)
What is the treatment for sublingual gland disorders?
Often the diagnosis of salivary gland disorders is confirmed by a series of x-rays, MRI scans, medical history, and oral examination. (5)
Treatment of sublingual salivary gland disorders can be as follows –
- Small salivary stones can be treated by warm compress and encouraging the patient to drink a lot of water.
- A dentist professionally removes huge salivary stones.
- Viral or bacterial infections of the sublingual salivary gland are treated with antibiotics, salivary gland massages, and in some cases, surgical interventions. However, some natural methods to improve the functioning of the salivary gland may include consumption of lemon juice.
- Treatment for Sjogren’s syndrome includes a series of medications to treat the underlying immune disease.
The foundation for good and healthy oral tissues begins with a good oral healthcare routine. Brush your teeth two times a day, followed by flossing once a day.
Use antimicrobial mouthwash to decrease the bacterial load and provide fresh breath. Regular dental check-ups are the key to detect any dental issues at an early stage.
Take away message
Sublingual salivary gland is one of the three major salivary glands located anterior to the submandibular gland under the tongue.
Sublingual salivary gland primarily functions in producing mucus saliva and contributes around 5% of the total salivary secretion in the mouth.
Unlike any other salivary gland, the ducts of sublingual salivary gland are not straight nor intercalated.
Therefore the saliva is directly secreted I the mouth by excretory ducts called Rivinius ducts.
Several oral diseases can affect the sublingual salivary gland. Some of them include salivary gland stones, bacterial and viral infections, immune disorders like Sjogren’s syndrome, and salivary gland tumors.
Treatment of such oral conditions is usually symptomatic. However, surgical interventions may be required in case of tumors and large salivary stones.
The best way to prevent salivary gland disorders is to maintain good oral health and hygiene.
Start by following a dental health care routine and visit your dentist every six months to check your oral health and condition.