Also known as the salivary glands, sublingual glands are the glands that produce mucin and help promote the production of saliva. The sublingual salivary glands are located on both sides of the mouth, just under the tongue and embedded in the mucous membrane of the mouth’s floor. Because of the secretions of the glands, the interior area of the mouth is kept lubricated, which is necessary for chewing and swallowing food.
The lubrication and binding functions of the sublingual glands cannot be underestimated. Secretions from the glands mix with food as it is chewed, making the material slippery and easily swallowed. Because of the saliva content of the masticated food, it can move without difficulty into the throat and on to the digestive tract. Low levels of saliva production can make the process of swallowing much more difficult and will increase the potential for food to lodge in the throat.
Along with providing lubrication, the produce of the sublingual glands also aids in the promotion of good oral hygiene. During the waking hours, saliva production helps to dislodge small particles of food, allowing them to be swallowed. As a result, the mouth is kept cleaner as well as properly lubricated.
While the sublingual glands are very active during the waking hours, their production of saliva decreases slightly while the individual is asleep. This helps to account for the dry mouth and bad breath that many people experience when waking in the morning. By brushing the teeth and swishing a small amount of water in the mouth, the dryness and the bad breath are banished. At the same time, the glands begin to increase saliva production once again, in preparation for the coming day.
The production of the sublingual glands also aids in the process of digesting starches. Saliva helps to break down starches even as the food is being chewed. This helps to hasten the conversion of starch into maltose, allowing the body to absorb the nutrients from the starchy food with greater ease.
As with any part of the body, it is possible for the sublingual glands to become infected. Often, the infection manifests as swelling that is very painful and inhibits the ability of the glands to produce saliva. Swollen sublingual glands can usually be treated effectively with the use of antibiotics. Changes in diet can sometimes also help alleviate some of the pain associated with sublingual gland swelling. When a swollen sublingual gland is first detected, prompt medical treatment will make it possible to correct the problem quickly and alleviate any long-term pain.