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Keywords:

  • parotid duct;
  • orifice;
  • buccinator muscle;
  • sphincter muscle;
  • human fetus

Abstract

The parotid glands secrete about 25% of all saliva produced. In the presence of a stimulus, the amount of saliva secreted from the parotid gland increases to 50%. A decrease in the amount of produced saliva due to aging and parotiditis results in a dry mouth. Therefore, the parotid duct is important to maintaining a healthy oral cavity. In human adults, the parotid duct, ∼6–8-cm long, travels over the masseter muscle and penetrates the buccinator muscle to enter the oral cavity. Although there have been various studies regarding the parotid gland, only few suggest a functional role of the parotid duct, especially its area of penetration of the buccinator muscle. In this study, 34 fetal specimens ranging from 4 to 10 months of age at death were dissected for anatomical and histological examinations. The area of the parotid duct penetrating the buccinator muscle was fully formed in 5-month-old fetuses. This study found buccinator muscle fibers invading the parotid duct wall near its opening in 6-month-old fetuses and older. Our results support the claim that the buccinator muscle may act as a sphincter, playing a role in regulating and possibly preventing the reflux of salivary secretions into the parotid duct. Clin. Anat. 23:642–648, 2010. © 2010 Wiley-Liss, Inc.