Being told to eat candy to cure a medical condition may sound too good to be true. But if you have problems with your salivary glands, sour candy may be just what the doctor ordered. Infection, decreased saliva production or stones in the salivary ducts can cause pain and swelling in the salivary glands. Sour candy can increase saliva production and help relieve the pain, in some cases. Ask your doctor if sucking sour candy will help in your case.
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The six salivary glands -- one in each cheek, called the parotid glands; two under the roof of the mouth, called the sublingual glands; and two at the back of the mouth, called the submandibular glands -- all produce saliva. The submandibular glands produce the most saliva, around 70 percent of the total, according to Cedars-Sinai. The parotid glands produce around 25 percent, and the sublingual glands just 5 percent. Saliva production aids in the breakdown and digestion of food. Saliva also keeps the mouth clean and moist, which helps prevent cavities in teeth. Saliva drains from the glands through ducts.
Blockages within the salivary ducts, thicker than normal saliva, infection, medical conditions that decrease saliva production, such as Sjogren's disease, and certain medications, can all cause salivary gland problems. When saliva doesn't flow well, you may develop pain and swelling in the area of the salivary duct. Stimulating the salivary glands with sour candy or by other methods such as warm compresses or gentle massage helps the ducts drain more effectively and relieves the pain from the back up of saliva.
The Effects of Sour Candies
Increased saliva production "pumps" the ducts, which may propel small stones out of the ducts Increasing saliva production helps if you're taking medications that cause dry mouth. Sour candy increases the flow of saliva more than chewing gum, according to Medicine Online. (ref 2) While chewing gum increases saliva production to around 1 teaspoon per minute when you first start chewing, saliva productions drops 80 percent in 20 minutes. Sour candy, on the other hand, keeps saliva production at 1 teaspoon for the entire time you suck on it.
Sugar-free sour candy will accomplish the same saliva release as regular candy and lowers your calorie intake as well as reducing your cavity risks. However, some forms of artificial sugar alcohols can cause gas, abdominal pain and diarrhea when eaten in large amounts. Most adults can tolerate around 40 grams of sugar alcohol per day, registered dietitian Donna Feldman reports on The Diet Channel. Plain lemons or limes can have the same effect as sour candy but are less palatable. Talk to your doctor about the pros and cons of hard candy if you have a salivary gland disorder.
Is this an emergency? If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, please see the National Library of Medicine’s list of signs you need emergency medical attention or call 911.