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Submandibular Sialadenitis/Sialadenosis

  • Author: Adi Yoskovitch, MD, MSc; Chief Editor: Arlen D Meyers, MD, MBA  more...
Updated: May 06, 2016


Sialadenitis of the submandibular gland is a relatively commonly encountered yet infrequently discussed topic. Causes range from simple infection to autoimmune etiologies. Although not as frequent as sialadenitis of the parotid gland, it represents an important area of clinical relevance to the otolaryngologist and other specialists. The following discusses the basic science of the submandibular gland, as well as the more common causes of sialadenitis and sialadenosis of the submandibular gland.


The submandibular gland, along with the parotid and sublingual glands, comprise the major salivary glands. The minor salivary glands are scattered along the upper aerodigestive tract, including the lips, mucosa of the oral cavity, pharynx, and hard palate.

The submandibular gland is the second largest (approximate weight, 10 g) of the major salivary glands (the parotid gland is the largest). Anatomically, it is situated in the submandibular triangle of the neck.

The gland itself can be arbitrarily divided into superficial and deep lobes based on its relationship to the mylohyoid muscle, the former lying superficial to the muscle, and the latter wrapping around the posterior aspect of the muscle. The gland itself lies on the hyoglossus muscle, superficial to both the hypoglossal and the lingual nerves, the latter supplying parasympathetic innervation by way of the chorda tympani nerve (from cranial nerve VII) and the submandibular ganglion. The duct of the submandibular gland, also known as the Wharton duct, exits the gland from the deep lobe, passing through the floor of the mouth, and opening in close proximity to the lingual frenulum. See the image below.

Sialogram with stenosis secondary to chronic siala Sialogram with stenosis secondary to chronic sialadenosis.


The salivary glands serve numerous functions, including lubrication; enzymatic degradation of food substances; production of hormones, antibodies, and other blood group–reactive substances; mediation of taste; and antimicrobial protection. The regulation of salivary flow is primarily through the autonomic system and, most importantly, the parasympathetic division. In the case of the submandibular gland, this is mediated through the submandibular ganglion. Presynaptic fibers are derived from the superior salivatory nucleus and carried by the chorda tympani nerve, which joins the lingual nerve traveling towards the ganglion. Postsynaptic fibers extend from the ganglion to the gland itself.

Saliva is produced in the glandular subunit. The fluid component of the saliva is derived from the perfusing blood vessels in proximity to the gland, while the macromolecular composition is derived from secretory granules within the acinar cells. The saliva is produced in the acinus. Myoepithelial cells, containing contractile elements, are located along the periphery of the acinus. Upon contraction of these myoepithelial cells, the saliva is secreted into the ductal system.

The exact mechanism of salivary secretion is not completely understood but is believed to be under the influence of a cyclic AMP (adenosine 3,'5'-cyclic monophosphate) and a calcium-activated phosphorylation mechanism. The salivary secretions are then modified by a variety of cell types along a series of ducts, including the striated, intercalated, and excretory ducts, before finally being excreted through the Wharton duct into the oral cavity.

The concentration of mucus is higher in the submandibular gland, accounting for the viscous nature of its secretions relative to the other salivary glands. This increased viscosity, and subsequent relatively slower flow, contributes to the propensity for salivary gland calculi and stasis in certain disease states.




United States

The exact frequency of submandibular sialadenitis is unclear. The incidence of acute suppurative parotitis has been reported at 0.01-0.02% of all hospital admissions. The submandibular gland is suggested to account for approximately 10% of all cases of sialadenitis of the major salivary glands. Extrapolation would suggest an incidence of 0.001-0.002%, but this is unconfirmed.


No race predilection per se exists.


No sex predilection per se exists.


Although no obvious age predilection exists, per se, sialadenitis as a whole tends to occur in the older, debilitated, or dehydrated patient.[1]

Contributor Information and Disclosures

Adi Yoskovitch, MD, MSc Chief, Department of Otolaryngology - Head and Neck Surgery, Fleury Hospital, Canada

Adi Yoskovitch, MD, MSc is a member of the following medical societies: American Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery, Canadian Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Specialty Editor Board

Francisco Talavera, PharmD, PhD Adjunct Assistant Professor, University of Nebraska Medical Center College of Pharmacy; Editor-in-Chief, Medscape Drug Reference

Disclosure: Received salary from Medscape for employment. for: Medscape.

Dominique Dorion, MD, MSc, FRCSC, FACS Deputy Dean and Associate Dean of Resources, Professor of Surgery, Division of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery, Faculty of Medicine, Université de Sherbrooke, Canada

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Chief Editor

Arlen D Meyers, MD, MBA Professor of Otolaryngology, Dentistry, and Engineering, University of Colorado School of Medicine

Arlen D Meyers, MD, MBA is a member of the following medical societies: American Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery, American Head and Neck Society

Disclosure: Serve(d) as a director, officer, partner, employee, advisor, consultant or trustee for: Cerescan;RxRevu;SymbiaAllergySolutions<br/>Received income in an amount equal to or greater than $250 from: Symbia<br/>Received from Allergy Solutions, Inc for board membership; Received honoraria from RxRevu for chief medical editor; Received salary from Medvoy for founder and president; Received consulting fee from Corvectra for senior medical advisor; Received ownership interest from Cerescan for consulting; Received consulting fee from Essiahealth for advisor; Received consulting fee from Carespan for advisor; Received consulting fee from Covidien for consulting.

Additional Contributors

Richard V Smith, MD Director of Clinical Affairs, Associate Professor, Department of Otolaryngology, Division of Head and Neck Surgery, Einstein College of Medicine, Montefiore Medical Center

Richard V Smith, MD is a member of the following medical societies: American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery, American College of Surgeons, American Head and Neck Society, The Triological Society, American Medical Association, American Medical Student Association/Foundation, Medical Society of the District of Columbia, New York Academy of Medicine, Vermont Medical Society

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

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Submandibular calculus.
Sialogram with stenosis secondary to chronic sialadenosis.
Submandibular abscess and associated Ludwig angina.
Submandibular neoplasm.
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