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What are the salivary glands and what do they do?
Salivary glands produce saliva and empty it into a person’s mouth. Saliva helps make food moist, making it easier for people to chew, swallow, and digest. Saliva also helps keep the mouth clean. A person has three main pairs of large salivary glands and hundreds of smaller salivary glands. This article discusses the different types of salivary glands and what they do. It also lists a number of conditions that affect the salivary glands and discusses when someone should consider contacting a doctor. Below are the three typesTrusted Source of major salivary glands: Parotid glands: These are the largest of the salivary glands. They are just in front of and below the ears. A person has one parotid gland on each side of their face. Submandibular glands: These are the second-largest salivary glands. They are below a person’s jaw. Sublingual glands: This gland is below the tongue. Instead of having one main duct, these glands contain a series of short ducts. They project saliva directly onto the floor of a person’s mouth. The major salivary glands produce around 92–95%Trusted Source of a person’s saliva. The minor salivary glands produce the remainder of a person’s saliva. A person has about 600–1,000 minor salivary glands. They are in almost every part of the mouth, but most commonly in the: lips lining of the cheeks tongue palate What do the salivary glands do? The salivary glands produceTrusted Source saliva and secrete it into the mouth. Saliva plays a role in helping a person chew and swallow food by making it moist. It also lubricates the surfaces within the mouth, which can help facilitate speech. Saliva also contains enzymes that help a person digest certain substances in their food. For example, saliva containsTrusted Source the enzyme amylase, which helps break down starches into sugars. This makes it easier for the body to absorb the starches. Saliva also contains the enzyme lipase. This enzyme helpsTrusted Source break down triglycerides, which are a type of dietary fat, into glycerol and free fatty acids. This makes it easierTrusted Source for the body to absorb these fats. Additionally, saliva plays a role in helping protect against infection. This is because it contains compounds with antimicrobial properties, such asTrusted Source: lysozymes, which are a type of enzyme hydrogen peroxide lactoferrin, which is a type of protein These compounds kill germs and help keep the mouth clean. Disruptions in saliva secretion can increase a person’s risk of developing certain conditions, such as: tooth decay gum disease candidiasis, or yeast infections respiratory tract infections