There are three pairs of major salivary glands: parotid, submandibular and sublingual glands. Parotid glands are largest, weighing around 15 grams, and sublingual glands are smallest, weighing around 2-4 grams. In addition, there are hundreds of minor salivary glands. Salivary glands are found at different locations connected to the mouth.
The salivary glands produce saliva that is secreted into the oral cavity. Saliva is rich in enzymes that initiate the breakdown of food and it also has antimicrobial properties.
The salivary gland consists of lobes, larger sections, which in turn are divided into several lobules, smaller sections, by interlobular septa. Interlobular septa are thin walls of connective tissue in between the lobules.
The lobules secrete saliva and are therefore called secretory lobules. They consist of serous acini, mucinous acini, and intralobular ducts (i.e. ducts within the lobules). Supporting capillaries and adipocytes are intermixed with the acini and intralobular ducts.
Imbedded in the connective tissue of the interlobular septa, there are excretory ducts (i.e. ducts that transport saliva out from the salivary glands), large arteries, large veins and peripheral nerves.