A mucocele is a small bump or a cyst that forms inside your mouth. This cyst on the lower lip or the floor of the mouth can cause some discomfort. In some cases, it can also cause pain. These cysts are also known as oral mucous cysts. In most cases, these cysts are caused as a result of lip biting.
In this post, we will discuss what causes mucoceles and how to tell if you have one. We will also look at the medical and natural treatment options for mucoceles.
Causes Of Mucocele
Most mucoceles result from damage to the salivary ducts. This could be due to trauma or lip biting. Sometimes, we accidentally bite the inside of our cheeks. A mucocele can easily form at such a site (1).
This trauma to the lips can also be caused by misaligned teeth or a badly placed lip piercing that injures your salivary gland. Other factors, such as sports injuries or smoking, can also damage the soft oral tissues, leading to the development of mucous cysts in your mouth.
When the mucocele forms under the tongue, on the floor of the mouth, it is known as a ranula (2). This happens when the salivary glands present their experience blockage.
In the next section, we will discuss the symptoms of mucocele.
Symptoms Of Mucocele
The signs and symptoms depend on how deep within the skin the cyst lies. It also depends on where it occurs. Oral mucous cysts or mucoceles do not usually cause severe pain, but they cause discomfort. However, if they recur with time, they can become painful.
Some of the common symptoms of cysts on the surface of the skin include (3):
- A raised bump or swelling.
- Lesions that are up to 1 cm in diameter.
- Increased softness in the affected area.
- A blue coloration of the skin surrounding the lesion in some cases.
This cyst may feel mobile and less firm, while the overlying epithelium looks intact.
In cases with a deeper cyst, it may appear more rounded and have a whitish appearance. These cases require immediate medical attention. You will mostly be asked to undergo surgical removal of the cyst in this case.
When To See A Doctor
If you observe any signs and symptoms as mentioned above, you should consult your doctor. This will help you rule out the possibility of any severe conditions that may lead to the development of a cyst in and around your mouth. If you feel that the cyst is growing larger than 1 cm in diameter, you must seek immediate medical help.
Usually, a mucous cyst can be identified during a regular visit to your dentist. In most cases, your dentist will allow the cyst to resolve on its own. However, if the cyst persists for longer than 2 months, you must consult your doctor again.
Diagnosis Of Mucocele
The standard procedure for diagnosing a mucocele involves your doctor asking you about a history of trauma to your lips, such as the history of lip biting. This helps them make an accurate diagnosis.
Sometimes, your doctor may ask for a sample to be taken for further tests. A sample of a small tissue may be sent for a biopsy to rule out any forms of cancer.
Typically, doctors may require a biopsy if the cyst looks larger than 2 cm in diameter, development of the cyst has taken place with no history of trauma or lip biting, or if the appearance of the cyst suggests adenoma or lipoma.
Medical treatment of the mucocele depends on the severity of the cyst that has developed. If you have a superficial cyst (not too deep), the chances are that it may resolve on its own. However, if the cyst is deep and occurs frequently, it may need immediate medical attention.
Medical Treatment For Mucoceles
Treatment of mucous cysts include:
- Laser Therapy
This treatment involves the use of a small, directed beam of light from a laser diode to remove the cyst (4). The laser diode is used for the excision of the mucous cyst.
This procedure involves the use of a beam of laser with the appropriate wavelength and absorption coefficient. This helps to eliminate the cyst and treat the target soft tissue with precision.
The advantages of this method include minimal discomfort while the process is carried out, less bleeding, better compliance among patients, and lesser chances of recurrence. Lasers have also been seen to cause lesser injury or trauma to the affected area and allow faster recovery.
This treatment involves the destruction of the cyst by the application of extreme cold to the affected tissues (5). The process emphasizes the rapid application of extreme cold, slow thawing, and repeating the rapid cooling process. This helps maximize the process of destroying the affected soft tissue.
The advantage of this process is that it causes less discomfort and bleeding and lesser complications, such as hemorrhage, infection, and scarring after treatment.
It may also be repeated with no permanent side effects and can be suggested to patients for whom surgery has been contraindicated due to their age or medical history.
The disadvantage of this process is that it causes necrosis and sloughing along with the treatment. Other disadvantages of cryotherapy include an unpredictable degree of swelling and not being able to determine the exact depth and area of freezing.
- Intralesional Corticosteroid Injection
This treatment injects steroids into the cyst. Corticosteroid is a potent anti-inflammatory agent that can reduce the swelling by shrinking the dilated salivary ducts (6).
As the term suggests, this process involves the injection of a sclerosing agent or corticosteroid in the lesion. This enables the drainage of the cyst, which, in turn, reduces its size.
The benefit of this method is that it can help increase the concentration of the drug used at the site of the cyst. This reduces the complications that can arise as a result of the systemic absorption of corticosteroids.
The disadvantage of this procedure is the discomfort that arises if the injection method is not correct. It can cause some pain, and the process may lead to mucosal atrophy as a side effect.
If your doctor suspects recurrence in case of severe cysts, you might be asked to go in for surgical removal of the cyst.
Besides having the cysts removed by medical methods and if the cyst is not very severe, you may opt for home remedies to manage the symptoms.
Home Remedies For Mucoceles
Most cases of mucoceles may be treated with non-invasive and easy-to-follow home treatments. In fact, early interventions right at the onset of the condition can result in quick recovery. Here are a few remedies you can try:
1. Saline Rinse
You can use a saline rinse as a mouthwash for a small mucous cyst. Doing this regularly can help draw the fluid out of the cyst. It can also help prevent any further infection to the affected area (7).
You Will Need
1 cup of warm water
1/2 teaspoon of salt
What You Have To Do
- Take a cup of warm water.
- Add half a teaspoon of salt to it and swish it in your mouth for about 15 seconds.
- Spit it out.
How Often You Should Do This
You can do this two times daily.
Honey is an antibacterial agent that can help prevent the affected site from further infection. It has wound-healing properties that can help speed up the healing process (8).
You Will Need
What You Have To Do
Take a few drops of honey and apply it to the affected area.
How Often You Should Do This
You can do this two times daily.
3. Sugarless Gum
Chewing sugarless gum can help prevent you from biting your lip. It keeps your mouth occupied and ensures that you don’t meddle with the cyst.
A mucous cyst is commonly seen as a mucocele on the lower lip. But it can also develop as a mucocele on the roof of the mouth. No matter where it develops, you can use any of the remedies mentioned above to provide relief from the condition. Here are some tips for you to prevent mucoceles.
Tips And Precautions
- Mostly, mucoceles resolve on their own. The best thing is to leave the mucocele cyst alone. If it doesn’t heal on its own in a few days, you must consult a doctor.
- If you have the habit of biting your lip, refrain from it as much as possible.
- If you have an existing mucocele, make sure that it does not get infected by using antibacterial mouthwashes or homemade saline rinses.
- Eat carefully so that you do not bite off the affected area and aggravate the salivary mucocele further.
- Maintain good oral hygiene to avoid infections.
Mucoceles are mostly painless, but they can get in the way of regular eating and drinking. Hence, it is better to seek medical help to treat them. Consult your doctor to understand which of the above home remedies and treatment options you can follow to obtain relief.
Expert’s Answers For Readers’ Questions
Are mucoceles dangerous?
They are usually harmless, except for the scar tissue they can sometimes leave behind.
Are mucoceles painful?
A deep mucocele can be painful, which is a rare case. Most mucoceles are superficial and painless.
How long does it take for a mucocele to form?
There is no specific period for a mucocele to develop. It usually develops suddenly.
How long does it take for mucocele to go away?
Most mucoceles go away in a week or so. There have been cases where the mucocele took 3-6 weeks to heal on its own.
What are the most common locations to find mucoceles?
An oral mucocele can be found at any of the following locations:
- Inside the lower lip
- Inner cheek
- Under the tongue (floor of the mouth)
- The roof of the mouth
- On the tongue
Mucoceles are very rarely found on the upper lip.
Which doctor should you go to for a mucocele?
You should consult a dental specialist to avail of allopathy treatment for a mucocele.
- Oral mucocele: Review of literature and a case report, Journal of Pharmacy & BioAllied Sciences, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
- Management of Paediatric Oral Ranula: A Systematic Review, Journal of Clinical and Diagnostic Research, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
- Mucocele on Lower Lip: A Case Series, Indian Dermatology Online Journal, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
- Excision of Mucocele Using Diode Laser in Lower Lip, Case Reports in Dentistry, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
- Cryosurgery: Painless and Fearless Management of Mucocele in Young Patient, Journal of Clinical and Diagnostic Research, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
- Nonsurgical Management of Oral Mucocele by Intralesional Corticosteroid Therapy, International Journal of Dentistry, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
- Treating Mucocele in Pediatric Patients Using a Diode Laser: Three Case Reports, MDPI, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
- Evidence for Clinical Use of Honey in Wound Healing as an Anti-bacterial, Anti-inflammatory Anti-oxidant and Anti-viral Agent: A Review, Jundishapur Journal of Natural Pharmaceutical Products, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
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