Mucocele: The Mystery Bump in Your Mouth

Have you ever been going about your business when you notice a small bump in your mouth? It’s always a bit nerve-racking when you find a foreign lump or bump somewhere on your body. After close inspection in the mirror, you’ll probably ask yourself “What is it? Should I call my dentist?” More times than not, the bubble is simply a mucocele, or cyst, which is usually completely harmless. But if the bubble is persistent and bothersome, it’s always a good idea to have it checked out by a professional.

So, what exactly is a mucocele you ask? The cyst forms around a small salivary gland, or more specifically, the small tube or duct that saliva travels through to reach your mouth. Sometimes, these ducts can become damaged or blocked, resulting in a pooling of walled-off fluid, creating a small bubble. Damage to a duct can be caused by repeatedly biting or sucking on your lower lip or cheek. It can also result after getting struck in the face. Mucoceles are often found on the inside of your lower lip, the roof of your mouth, on your gums, or under your tongue. They typically show some, or all, of the following characteristics:

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

Mucoceles typically go away on their own, but sometimes they can enlarge to the point of causing discomfort. It is strongly advised that you do not try to treat them yourself. If the small bump is causing pain or discomfort, consult with your doctor or dentist. If treatment is required, your dentist will likely perform one of two procedures. A scalpel or laser may be used to remove the salivary gland. A local anesthetic will be used to numb any pain. The second possible procedure is called marsupialization, which is a technique that helps a new duct form and helps saliva leave the salivary gland. This involves placing a stitch through the mucocele and gently expressing the saliva. The stitch is then removed about a week later.

Again, these harmless cysts typically take care of themselves, but it is always recommended that you see your dentist if any pain or discomfort is experienced.

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