Anatomy and Structure of the Parotid Gland


The parotid gland is one of the major salivary glands located in the head and neck region. It plays a crucial role in the production and secretion of saliva, which aids in the digestion of food and maintains oral health. In this article, we will explore the anatomy and structure of the parotid gland in detail. Additionally, we will address some frequently asked questions related to the parotid gland.

I. Anatomy of the Parotid Gland

  • 1. Location: The parotid gland is situated in front of the ear, extending from the zygomatic arch to the angle of the mandible. It is divided into two lobes, the superficial and deep lobes, which are separated by the facial nerve.
  • 2. Size and Shape: The parotid gland is the largest of the salivary glands, typically measuring about 5 centimeters in length and 3 centimeters in width. It has an irregular shape, resembling a pyramid or a pear.
  • 3. Duct System: The parotid gland is drained by the Stensen’s duct, also known as the parotid duct. This duct originates from the gland and opens into the oral cavity near the second upper molar tooth.
  • 4. Blood Supply: The parotid gland receives its blood supply from the external carotid artery, specifically from the posterior auricular artery and the superficial temporal artery. These arteries provide oxygenated blood to the gland for its metabolic needs.
  • 5. Nerve Supply: The parotid gland is innervated by the parotid plexus, which is formed by branches of the glossopharyngeal nerve (CN IX) and the facial nerve (CN VII). These nerves regulate the secretion of saliva and control the blood flow to the gland.

II. Structure of the Parotid Gland

  • 1. Connective Tissue Capsule: The parotid gland is enveloped by a connective tissue capsule that provides support and protection to the glandular tissue. This capsule also contains blood vessels and nerves that supply the gland.
  • 2. Parenchyma: The parenchyma of the parotid gland consists of secretory units called acini. These acini are composed of serous cells, which produce a watery secretion rich in enzymes, electrolytes, and proteins. The acini are arranged in lobules, which are separated by connective tissue septa.
  • 3. Duct System: The secretory units of the parotid gland drain into intercalated ducts, which merge to form larger striated ducts. These ducts are lined with epithelial cells that modify the composition of the saliva by reabsorbing sodium and chloride ions and secreting potassium and bicarbonate ions.
  • 4. Stroma: The stroma of the parotid gland refers to the supporting connective tissue framework that surrounds the acini and ducts. It contains blood vessels, lymphatic vessels, and nerves that supply the glandular tissue.
  • 5. Fat Tissue: The parotid gland is interspersed with adipose tissue, which provides cushioning and insulation to the gland. This adipose tissue also helps to maintain the shape and position of the gland within the head and neck region.


  • 1. What is the function of the parotid gland?

– The parotid gland produces and secretes saliva, which aids in the digestion of food, lubricates the oral cavity, and helps maintain oral health. Saliva also contains enzymes that initiate the breakdown of carbohydrates.

  • 2. Can the parotid gland become enlarged?

– Yes, the parotid gland can become enlarged due to various reasons, including infections, blockages of the ducts, tumors, or autoimmune conditions. Enlargement of the parotid gland may cause pain, swelling, and difficulty in eating or speaking.

  • 3. What are some common disorders of the parotid gland?

– Some common disorders of the parotid gland include parotitis (inflammation of the gland), salivary gland stones (blockages in the ducts), and tumors (both benign and malignant). These conditions may require medical or surgical intervention for treatment.

  • 4. Can the parotid gland be affected by nerve damage?

– Yes, the parotid gland is innervated by the facial nerve (CN VII), and damage to this nerve can affect the function of the gland. Facial nerve paralysis or injury may lead to decreased saliva production and dryness of the mouth.

  • 5. Are there any specific precautions to maintain the health of the parotid gland?
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