The causes, symptoms and treatment of mucocele

One of the things which doctors always warn patients to look out for is the appearance of a new and unexplained lump or swelling on any part of the body. The same is true of the mouth, and if you or your child develops a soft swollen spot in the mouth you really should have it checked by your dentist. The chances are that it is just a harmless cyst known as a mucocele, but it’s safest to access general dentistry treatment in order to make sure. In the same vein, if you visit a dental hygienist on a regular basis then the chances are that any such lump will be spotted at the earliest opportunity.

The Causes

To understand what causes a mucocele, you first have to understand the action of the salivary glands in the mouth. Saliva is hugely important, as it acts as a kind of natural mouthwash, helping to keep the tongue, gums teeth and soft tissue lubricated and rinsing away harmful substances such as particles of food and bacteria. The three saliva glands are positioned around the mouth and transmit saliva through minute tubes known as ducts and these can become blocked or damaged, particularly if you have a habit of biting on your cheek or lower lip. An accidental impact to the face could also damage a saliva duct and once it has been damaged or become blocked, mucus can gather and form into a solid lump.

The Symptoms

Mucoceles usually appear on the gums, the roof of the mouth, under the tongue or inside the lower lip. Those which present on the floor of the mouth are called ranulas and are rare but, because they are larger, can inhibit speech, swallowing and eating. Most mucoceles demonstrate the following characteristics:

  • They are pain free and can be moved
  • They are dome shaped, soft and round
  • The colour will be semi-translucent, pearly or bluish
  • In size they range from 2 to 10 millimetres

The Treatment

The good news is that Mucoceles often disappear of their own accord after a period of time. Sometimes, however, they do swell and become larger and it is imperative that patients don’t try to open or treat a mucocele themselves, as this may lead to infection.  If you discover a mucocele, than consult your dentist for expert advice.  The treatment usually involves one of the following two approaches:

Removing the saliva gland

Your dentist will numb the area using local anaesthetic and then use either a scalpel or a laser to remove the gland.

Form a new saliva duct

This is a slightly more complex technique known as marsupialisation, and involves several stages:

  • Your dentists disinfects the area being treated
  • They put a stitch through the mucocele and tie a knot in it
  • They gently squeeze out some saliva
  • After a week, the stitch is removed

Other treatment aimed at reducing the swelling or removing the need for surgical intervention includes injecting steroids or applying medication directly onto the mucocele. Whilst many people still assume that dental intervention generally involves easing tooth pain, it is vital that patients liaise carefully and regularly with their clinic in order to spot and deal with problems such as mucocele as quickly as possible. Modern techniques and treatments mean that restoring your mouth to full dental good health, and an attractive appearance, can easily be achieved.