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Mucocele: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment

It's natural to be a little worried when a new lump or bump forms on your body. If you or your child develops a soft swelling in the mouth, it may just be a mucocele -- a harmless cyst. It's still a good idea to get it checked out, though, especially if it's bothersome.

Causes

Where does a mucocele come from? It centers on a small salivary gland, which makes saliva in your mouth.

Here's what happens:

Your saliva moves from a salivary gland through tiny tubes (ducts) into your mouth. One of these ducts can become damaged or blocked. This most often happens if you repeatedly bite or suck on your lower lip or cheek.

Getting hit in the face could also disrupt the duct. Remember that "head-on collision" in your pick-up game of basketball last month? Maybe that was the original culprit.

What happens once the duct damage is done? Mucus seeps out, pools, becomes walled off, and causes a cyst-like swelling. A similar buildup happens when the duct has become blocked.

Symptoms

Mucoceles often show up on the inside of your lower lips, your gums, the roof of your mouth, or under your tongue. Those on the floor of the mouth are called ranulas. These are rare, but because they are larger, they can cause more problems with speech, chewing, and swallowing.

Mucoceles may have these characteristics:

  • Moveable and painless
  • Soft, round, dome-shaped
  • Pearly or semi-clear surface or bluish in color
  • 2 to 10 millimeters in diameter

 

Treatment

Mucoceles often go away without treatment. But sometimes they enlarge. Don't try to open them or treat them yourself. See your doctor, your child's pediatrician, or your dentist for expert advice.

These are the two types of treatment a doctor or dentist most commonly uses:

Removing the gland. The dentist or doctor may use a scalpel or laser to remove the salivary gland. Local anesthesia numbs the pain. 

Helping a new duct to form. Called marsupialization, this technique helps a new duct form and helps saliva leave the salivary gland.

The dentist or doctor:

  • Disinfects the area
  • Puts a stitch through the mucocele and ties a knot
  • Gently presses out saliva
  • Removes the stitch after about a week

Other types of treatment that may bring down swelling or prevent the need for surgery include steroid injections and medications applied to the surface of the mucocele.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Arefa Cassoobhoy, MD, MPH on January 08, 2014
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Only 18.5% of Americans never floss. You are missing out on a simple way to make a big difference in the health of your mouth. Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Floss removes food trapped between the teeth and removes the film of bacteria that forms there before it turns to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Try flossing just one tooth to get started.

You are one of 31% of Americans who don't floss daily. You are missing out on a simple way to make a big difference in the health of your mouth. Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces. Flossing removes up to 80% of the film that hardens to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Aim for 3 more days!

You are one of 31% of Americans who don't floss daily, but you're well on your way to making a positive impact on your teeth and gums. Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces. Flossing removes up to 80% of the film that hardens to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Aim for all 7 days!

Only 50.5% of Americans floss daily, and good for you that you are one of them! Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces. Flossing removes up to 80% of the film that hardens to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Congratulations on your good oral health habit!

SOURCES:

American Dental Association, Healthy People 2010

This tool is intended only for adults 18 and older.

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