Salivary gland pain
April 5, 2011 10:17 AM   Subscribe

Help! It stings in my salivary gland area when I chew. Have you dealt with this in the past and if so what should I know?

So I have this pain in the salivary glands whenever I chew. I first noticed it maybe a week or two ago when I had a smoothie that involved some lemon juice... it was just slight discomfort at the time so I wrote it off, but fast-forward to today and I've got sharp pain whenever I eat. The pain is on both sides, I can't really tell if anything's swollen, but the edge of my jaw right under my ears is mildly tender. I am in otherwise fine health and have no other symptoms like dry eyes or dry mouth (so I don't think it's Sjogren's, or whatever, and I am choosing to assume at this time that I do not have a tumor or cancer), I'm guessing it's maybe just an infection? or a blocked gland? Anyway, I have a couple questions.

a) I want to make an appointment with a medical professional TODAY, would it make sense to just call my GP, or is this something I should call a dentist about? (I have a regular GP, but I do not have a dentist at this time.)

b) If you or someone you know has had this issue, what did the treatment consist of? I am also not currently insured at the moment, and am just wondering what and how much I can expect to see on a bill.

Thanks for your input!!
posted by hegemone to Health & Fitness (14 answers total)
I used get a similar feeling pretty frequently, and it's often related to sour foods or red wine. I remember looking it up and seeing it related to dehydration. Ever since then, I've made sure to drink lots of water when I have sour foods or red wine, and it hasn't returned.

Just hearing you talk about it is causing a mild phantom pain in my jaw... Off to get a glass of water!
posted by AaRdVarK at 10:27 AM on April 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

Also, previously on AskMeFi:

Unfortunately, there were no definitive answers...
posted by AaRdVarK at 10:28 AM on April 5, 2011

It might be a blocked salivary gland. I had one once and my doctor prescribed lemon drops. He said any sour candy would work, but varieties with real lemon would be best. Eat a bunch of them, and let them dissolve in your mouth instead of chewing them up.

He actually filled out a prescription for "lemon drops, as needed". I was like 12, so I thought it was pretty awesome.
posted by easy, lucky, free at 10:28 AM on April 5, 2011

This sounds very much like swollen lymph nodes, which is usually due to infection. Your GP is the obvious first step. If this is the problem, the cost will be whatever it costs to see the doctor, plus antibiotics to clear the infection (plus lots of orange juice and ice cream for your throat! :)
posted by vorfeed at 10:31 AM on April 5, 2011

I have the same pain on occasion - sort of a shooting pain, doesn't hang around long. Happens to me when I have really tart/sour food or drinks. If it happens every time you eat/chew I wonder if it isn't TMJ?
posted by sleepykitties at 10:33 AM on April 5, 2011

This happens to me a lot, especially if my mouth is dry. I dont think its anything particularly serious or anything, but let me tell you, it sure can be painful for a few seconds. When I remember, I usually try and have a drink of something with favor (ie has salts or sugars) to trigger my salivary glands gently first, or suck on a candy etc. But I usually forget and have an annoyingly painful 'goddamit' moment. Again, don't think its a medical issue, but talking to a Doc certainly can't hurt worse than that 'goddamit' moment.
posted by elendil71 at 10:35 AM on April 5, 2011

I used to get salivary gland infections/stones/blockages all the time. I would do the lemon drop solution (at my doc's suggestion) but invariably needed antibiotics to clear it all up. After the third or fourth infection it became clear that the true problem was my grown-in wisdom teeth (I was in my early-30s at the time). I had the wisdom teeth removed and have never had salivary gland problems again in the 10+ years since.
posted by BlahLaLa at 10:43 AM on April 5, 2011

Hmm, am reading a bit about TMJ... I have noticed a bit of jaw clicking lately too. Wouldn't have occurred to me before but I'll make sure to mention that aspect.

Also, just to clarify, the pain that began a couple of weeks ago as something mild has escalated gradually but noticeably over the past several days (rather than a couple of isolated incidents); that is, I'm having stinging pain while eating all foods at all times right now.

(I'm really hoping for a Rx for lemon drops now though!)
posted by hegemone at 10:48 AM on April 5, 2011

Do you have any swelling on the outside of your face? I had a salivary stone a couple of years ago, and the first warning was a horrendous twinge (like a super-sour-surprise twinge) as I was eating a salty chip. That side of my face eventually swelled up like mumps and I was really miserable for nearly a week, and then one day about an hour after my prescribed Sour Patch Kids dosage something went *poke* into my tongue (I've had splinters bigger than this thing) and then, like, an hour later everything was totally normal except the skin on that side was a little saggy for another day.

My mom's doctor told her to do a light massage, rubbing along the tendon on the side of your neck, up around between your jaw and ear, and across the cheek towards the corner of your mouth. This expresses saliva and can clear a blocked pipe.
posted by Lyn Never at 11:00 AM on April 5, 2011

You could probably see your doctor or your dentist to start. My dentist diagnosed and treated a sinus infection that I had mistaken for a cavity (apparently the roots of some teeth are in your sinuses). They can at least tell you if the problem is something they can treat or not and if you should see a different kind of medical professional for it. What you have could be too many things to be diagnosed on the internet, from an infection to a blocked gland to any of the other possibilities mentioned above.
posted by L'Estrange Fruit at 11:36 AM on April 5, 2011

Had a similar issue, but only on one side at a time. In addition to drinking more water and sucking lemon drops, holding a heating pad on the side of my jaw for 10 minutes, a few times/day, helped a lot.

If only there were more forms of distress that could be cured by lemon drops. Right now, I'm suffering from KLPDS - Key Lime Pie Deficiency Syndrome.
posted by Corvid at 11:58 AM on April 5, 2011

Are you on any medications? Swelling or pain in the salivary glands can be a side effect of some meds.
posted by scody at 12:40 PM on April 5, 2011

I have this and it's because my salivary glands don't completely empty on their own. It started for me in the 5th grade. I gently press on the glands underneath my ears to empty them. I can do it by shrugging my shoulders against them as well. (If I don't, they swell up and get painful and hard.) I do it so much that I don't even know I'm doing it anymore. I think other people have mentioned having this on Mefi before.
posted by IndigoRain at 3:03 PM on April 5, 2011

Hey, just for future reference or if anyone's wondering, the doc ruled out stones or TMJ issues and concluded it's most likely infected ducts and gave me an antibiotic script. No big!
posted by hegemone at 12:17 PM on April 6, 2011 [1 favorite]

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