Bumps or lumps forming on any part of the body can be quite frightening and concerning. The first thought that often strikes the mind is that the lump could be cancerous. However, such bumps forming inside the mouth could be harmless mucoceles. So if you or your child develops a soft swelling inside the mouth or on the lower lip don’t get paranoid. It is most likely a benign mucocele. However, we recommend you visit a medical professional if it is causing too much trouble.
Mucocele, as defined in the Merriam-Webster medical dictionary, is a sac-like swelling of a hollow organ or cavity filled with mucus. This particular article focuses on oral mucocele or swelling on the lower lip and inside the mouth.
Types of Mucocele
The reason for swelling divides mucoceles into two categories. First, a mucous extravasation phenomenon, and second, mucus retention cysts.
The mucus extravasation phenomenon is the leakage of mucus from a minor salivary gland due to rupture. The mucus triggers an inflammatory reaction which causes the fluid to accumulate in a wall surrounded by granulation tissue. The accumulation leads to the development of a nodule or swelling on the inner lining of the mouth.
Mucus retention cyst
Unlike mucus extravasation, mucus retention cysts are due to excessive plugging of salivary glands with mucus. These type of cysts are generally found on the inside or the lower lip. However, they can occur anywhere inside the mouth. These cysts are usually temporary and painless, but we suggest you visit the doctors if they persist over an extended period. Retention cysts are a common occurrence in people between the ages of 50 to 60.
Causes of mucocele occurrences
The basic reason for the occurrence of mucus extravasation or mucous cyst retention is the damage to small salivary glands. Your saliva moves from the salivary gland in little tubes or ducts into your mouth. Whenever these ducts get damaged or blocked, it leads to the formation of sac-like swelling inside your mouth where the damage has occurred. Let’s take a look at all the incidents that can cause damage or rupture of these ducts.
Lip or cheek biting
Many people develop a habit of biting their lower lip or the inside of their cheeks frequently. The lip or cheek biting is often found in people suffering from anxiety and stress. This obsessive habit can very easily damage either the ducts or the salivary gland, leading to the formation of oral cysts. Experts have named lip and inner-cheek biting as the most common cause of the occurrence of mucoceles.
Local injury or trauma
An injury to the face or mouth is also a common cause for the formation of swelling inside the mouth. The local trauma caused due to the injury could disrupt the flow of saliva in the ducts leading to the swelling. However, the swelling caused due to injuries tend to go away with time.
Getting a piercing in the mouth can lead to inflammation of the inner lining of the mouth due to the damage caused to the salivary glands. Piercing their upper and lower lips can cause the swelling.
Reaction to a particular toothpaste
Response to certain chemicals in toothpaste could trigger the formation of cysts inside the mouth. The reaction is solely due to the presence of certain chemicals in the toothpaste. So make sure you check the ingredients of the toothpaste before using it.
Poor oral hygiene
Poor oral hygiene can lead to the development of mucoceles. Also, chronic damage to teeth also results in swelling of the inside of the mouth.
Classification of Cysts based on the location of occurrence
The cyst can occur anywhere inside the mouth and therefore receive clinically different terms for identification. The cysts or swelling can occur on the inside of the cheek and is known as buccal mucosa. These cysts can also form on the anterior of your tongue or on the floor of the mouth.
The cysts formed on the floor of the mouth are termed as ranulas. Although the occurrences are rare, these can cause major problems. Ranulas can enlarge and cause problems by interfering with speech, swallowing, mastication, and respiration. The swelling of the ranulas exerts pressure on the neighboring salivary glands. This results in pain and discomfort while eating and creates a feeling of fullness at the site. Moreover, ranulas cause the swelling of the submandibular gland.
Mucoceles are the most common amongst people in the age group of 10-25. The condition is equally common in both males and females. The mucocele is characterized by a swollen blister inside the mouth. The blister or sac-like swelling is soft, dome-shaped and can move.
Generally, the cysts are pain-free, but multiple occurrences at the same site inside the mouth can cause pain and discomfort. The cysts appear to be bluish, pearly or semi-translucent in color. However, if the mucocele forms deep inside the mouth, the mucus inside the cyst tends to turn whitish. The size of the cysts ranges from two to ten millimeters. The problems for patients increase when they have multiple cysts form in their mouths.
Generally, the swelling disappears on its own over a period of time. If the cause of the swelling is an injury to the mouth the healing time varies from person to person. However, visiting the doctor is a must if the cyst is larger than one centimeter in diameter. Additionally, if the cyst formation continues to occur multiple times, it is suggested to visit your dentist for further advice.
There are two main approaches followed by doctors to treat chronic cases of mucocele: removing the salivary gland and creating new pathways for mucus to drain.
Removing the salivary gland
The doctor may suggest excision of the adjacent salivary gland where the cyst formation occurs persistently. This is done by means of a surgery in which local anesthesia is used to numb the pain. The surgery procedures include laser and other minimally-invasive techniques to get rid of the cysts. The recovery time can be drastically reduced by following these procedures.
Creating new pathways for draining mucus
Creating new mucus pathways is another non-invasive way to treat cysts in the mouth. New pathways are created in two ways. In one of the methods, doctors use silk sutures in the dome of a cyst to create a new epithelialized pathway to drain the plugged salivary gland.
In the second variant of this method, the doctor disinfects the area of the cyst and puts a cut through it. The ruptured cyst is pressed to drain out the mucus. The cut is stitched and the stitches are removed after a week. This method is far more tolerable and less-traumatic as compared to its surgical counterpart. It comes in especially handy when treating children.
Certain steroids act as pain-killers when mucocele is concerned. The patient gets immediate relief when injecting steroids into the cyst. The steroids reduce inflammation and pain.
Preferable Home Remedies for Treating Cysts
Although cysts heal and disappear automatically over time, their existence can cause a problem in speaking and swallowing. However, there are multiple easy and quick remedies that can help you get rid of the swelling quickly and effectively.
Just applying alum on the cyst and keeping it on for a few minutes can do the trick for you. The chemical compound in alum helps to burst the cyst and prevents its recurrence.
A pinch of sea salt and lukewarm water can come in handy to treat the oral cysts. All you need to do is mix a pinch half a teaspoon of sea salt in lukewarm water and rinse your mouth thoroughly. The alkalinity of the salt counters the cyst by softening it and making it burst. Repeat the process two to three times of a day to get rid of the cyst in no time.
Another readily available ingredient that can help counter mucocele is baking soda. Apply a paste of baking soda mixed with water to the cyst for 8-10 minutes to speed up healing. The alkalinity in the soda softens and bursts the cyst just like the sea salt.
Yogurt makes healing cysts quite easy. The patient just needs to consume yogurt with meals or in-between meals. The probiotics, nutrients, and enzymes in the yogurt speed the healing process of the body. Additionally, it soothes the irritated skin around the cyst.
The vitamin C in lemon juice aids in healing controlling the swelling of the cyst. Just squeeze out the lemon juice on a cotton swab and apply it directly onto the cyst. Repeat the process twice a day for the most effective results.
When to Seek Medical Care
Although mucoceles are benign, their recurrence and persistent existence can raise questions. In such cases, we advise you to visit your doctor as soon as possible. Taking immediate action can help diagnose conditions that would help in the further treatment of the lump.
Featured Image CC by ASA-3.0, by Dozenist, via Wikimedia Commons