What Is Gleeking, and Can Everyone Do It?

Here's how you can give it a try.

The human body can do some strange things. And one of those peculiar things is called gleeking—also known as shooing saliva out from under the tongue

People may demonstrate their odd talent by accidentally projecting saliva while yawning, eating, or talking. But it runs out that anyone can gleek if they want to.

You have glands that make saliva, sitting right underneath your tongue, called sublingual glands. Per the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, your sublingual glands release saliva into your mouth through ducts. And as it turns out, you can train your tongue to apply pressure to your sublingual glands and gleek. 

So what's the deal with gleeking, exactly? And is there any actual benefit to this? Here's what you should know about gleeking, according to healthcare providers.

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Gleeking, Explained

So, "gleeking" is not a phrase that healthcare providers or researchers use in a clinical setting. There's actually "no medical term for this" at all, Janet O'Mahony, MD, an internist at Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore, told Health.

Still, most healthcare providers have at least heard of gleeking before—even though they say the practice of gleeking is pretty useless. 

"There's nothing medical about it. But there's nothing harmful about it," Mark S. Wolff, DDS, PhD, dean of the School of Dental Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, told Health. "It's the salivary glands doing what the glands are supposed to do."

How the Body Gleeks

First, here's a quick mouth anatomy lesson. According to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, There are three pairs of major salivary glands in your mouth:

  • Parotid glands, which are found in front of and below your ears. 
  • Submandibular glands, which sit below your jaw. 
  • Sublingual glands, which sit right below your tongue. 

"Then, there are thousands of what we call 'minor' salivary glands that are inside the lips and cheeks that help keep them moist," added Dr. Wolff. "As we eat, [sublingual] glands are stimulated and force saliva out." 

Additionally, Dr. Wolff noted that sublingual glands typically drain through a duct system under your tongue.

In general, gleeking comes from "built up watery saliva" in your sublingual glands, Steven Morgano, DMD, chair of the Department of Restorative Dentistry at the Rutgers School of Dental Medicine, told Health

Then, "pressure on the glands from the tongue [...] causes the saliva to squirt out," added Dr. Morgano.

While sublingual glands and the saliva excreted from them have a purpose while you eat, being able to gleek doesn't have any benefits, explained Dr. Morgano. 

"It is a quirk," added Dr. Morgano.

Learning to Gleek

Dr. Morgano pointed out that most people gleek by accident. But, if gleeking seems like something you actually want to do, there are some ways to prime your mouth for gleeking.

Dr. Wolff recommended first eating something sour. According to research published in 2018 in Biomed Research International, sour foods—say, tart cherries, kimchi, or vinegar—can stimulate the salivary glands.

Then, push your tongue out of your mouth and lift it. Curl the tip back so your tongue rests behind your top teeth.

"If you tense the muscles in the tongue right, it squeezes the duct, and saliva squirts right out," explained Dr. Wolff.

While Dr. Wolff said that "everyone can [gleek]," it can take some practice to do it on command. 

A Quick Review

Gleeking is one of the human body's most unique talents. Most people who gleek do so accidentally while talking, eating, or yawning. But as it turns out, you can train yourself to gleek by using your tongue and applying pressure to certain salivary glands. 

And although healthcare providers may say that there's no health benefit to gleeking, it certainly is an odd party trick. 

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2 Sources
Health.com uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research. Saliva & salivary gland disorders.

  2. Satoh-Kuriwada S, Shoji N, Miyake H, Watanabe C, Sasano T. Effects and mechanisms of tastants on the gustatory-salivary reflex in human minor salivary glands. BioMed Research International. 2018;2018:1-12. doi:10.1155/2018/3847075

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