Treating Mucocele: Should I Go to the Dentist or Doctor?

A mucocele is a type of small cyst that forms on the inside of your mouth. Discover who you should see to treat it with this guide from Flossy.

October 10, 2022
Treating Mucocele: Should I Go to the Dentist or Doctor?

If you noticed that a small bump has formed on the inside of your mouth, you might have developed something called a mucocele. Although a mucocele is fairly harmless, you should treat it quickly to prevent further pain, sensitivity, and discomfort. 

This brings us to the question: Should you see a dentist or doctor to treat a mucocele? Discover the answer with this guide from Flossy

What Is a Mucocele?

A mucocele is a (non-cancerous) small cyst containing a high mucous. It usually arises from the salivary glands. Although most clinicians don’t fully understand why it forms, it is usually the result of high mucus accumulation within the salivary gland. 

A mucocele is found on the inside of the lower lip—this is the location closest to the salivary glands. However, you can also find it on the floor of the mouth or the inside of the cheeks.

Mucoceles affect about 2.4 per 1,000 people, making it the fifteenth most common oral condition. They are more common in younger people, with the highest proportion of mucoceles occurring in those younger than 20 years of age. 

Two Types of Mucoceles

The first type is referred to as a mucous extravasation cyst. This is the most common type of mucocele caused by excessive salivary gland secretion. It forms because the secretion spills out into the surrounding tissue, which leads to swelling.

The second type of mucocele is less common. Referred to as a mucous retention cyst, it forms when the salivary gland becomes blocked with mucus. These are more common in older adults. 

A mucocele can also be classified according to its position:

  • Superficial mucocele: This type of mucocele is located under the mucosal surface—which is the most superficial level of the mucous membrane. This is the easiest type of mucocele to treat.
  • Classic mucocele: This type of mucocele is slightly deeper and is located in the upper layer of the submucosa. Treating this mucocele might be slightly more difficult. 
  • Deep mucocele: This type of mucocele is located in the lowest layers of the mucous membrane. It is the most difficult type of mucocele to treat and is more likely to occur in older adults. 

What Are the Signs and Symptoms of a Mucocele?

The signs and symptoms depend on which type of mucocele it is and where it is located on the skin. In most cases, a mucocele will not cause any pain—to the point of being undetectable. However, you might still feel some slight discomfort. 

If the mucocele is superficial, you might feel a small bump in your mouth that does not produce any significant pain. The bump may be less than 1 centimeter in diameter and take on a blue color.

However, if the mucocele is deep, you might experience some pain, sensitivity, and discomfort. In addition, the mucocele might be different in appearance, taking on a round shape and an off-white color. It might also be bigger than 1 centimeter in diameter. 

What Causes a Mucocele? 

While the exact causes of a mucocele aren’t known, it likely develops due to a combination of individual and lifestyle-based factors. 

The most common cause of a mucocele is physical trauma caused by oral activity. This can be due to different reasons, such as lip or cheek biting or a piercing. In some cases, a mucocele can form without any trauma and result from the salivary gland's obstruction. 

In most cases, your risk of developing a mucocele increases if you don’t follow a proper oral hygiene routine, including brushing and flossing twice per day. Stress can lead you to bite your cheek or lips, putting you at a higher risk of developing a mucocele.

Although mucoceles are more common in people aged 10 to 25, age is not a risk factor for this condition. People of any age can develop a mucocele. 

Should I Treat Mucocele With a Dentist or Doctor? 

In many cases, mucoceles can go away on their own. However, they can sometimes enlarge to the point of causing pretty significant pain and discomfort.

If this happens, then you should consult with your dentist. While your doctor can give you a referral for treatment, they will not have the required tools for removing the mucocele. 

If treatment is required, your dentist will perform a procedure to remove the mucocele. After applying a local anesthetic, your dentist may use a scalpel to remove the salivary gland causing the mucocele. 

Following this, your dentist may perform a marsupialization procedure, which helps a new salivary duct form. This is a fairly complex procedure that must be performed by a dental professional.

If you have recurring mucoceles, your dentist might use other treatments, such as laser, cryotherapy, or surgical excision. You may also need to work with a mental health professional to address your cheek or lip-biting habits—since they are a common cause of mucoceles. 

Can You Treat a Mucocele at Home?

If your mucocele doesn’t cause significant discomfort, then you can wait for it to go away on its own. In addition, you can try out several home treatment remedies, which include rinsing with a warm saltwater solution or apple cider vinegar. You can also apply a warm compress to the affected area.

You should check up on your cyst constantly to make sure that it does not get bigger—as this can increase your risk of it turning into an infection.

If you constantly bite on your lips or cheeks, one of the best preventative strategies you can adopt is breaking free of these habits. Unfortunately, these habits can be compulsive and hard to end. To help, you can try speaking with a mental health professional.

If you don’t have access to a mental health professional, then you can monitor your cheek and lip-biting behaviors. By keeping a journal of your habits, you can make the connection between your emotional states—such as boredom, stress, or anxiety—and your habits. 

Over time, this can help you identify when cheek or lip-biting is about to occur and stop it with healthy behaviors. 

Takeaways

A mucocele is a small cyst that forms inside the oral activity. It is often caused by physical trauma to the face, such as lip or cheek biting.

In most cases, a mucocele is harmless and should go away on its own. However, if it progresses, then treatment by a dental professional is imperative.

If you have formed a mucocele on the inside of your lip or cheek, then getting it checked out by a dentist is the best way to prevent any further complications. Flossy can help get you in touch with a high-quality dentist—at a fraction of the cost of other dentists.

Sources: 

Oral mucocele: A clinical and histopathological study | NCBI

Oral mucocele: Review of literature and a case report | NCBI

Home Remedies for Cysts: What Actually Works? | Healthline