Mucocele, Oral

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Overview

A mucocele is a small, painless, blister-like lesion that occurs on the inner lips or floor of the mouth. The blister is usually filled with clear fluid and is caused by damage to the inner, wetter skin of the lip or mouth (mucosal surface). The damage is often caused by braces, lip biting, or other injury to the mucosal surface. Mucoceles may go away on their own or may be treated by your doctor by being carefully cut out.

Who's at risk?

Mucoceles are common in anyone experiences injury to the mouth. They often occur in children or young adults who are lip biters or who wear braces. A similar lesion, called a mucus-retention cyst is more common in older adults who have not had any injury to their lips. Unlike mucoceles, these mucus-retention cysts tend to look less like fluid-filled blisters and more like small bumps. They are also painless and noncancerous (benign).

Signs and Symptoms

Mucoceles usually occur on the lower lip and inner part of the cheek, as these are frequent areas of injury in the mouth, but they can occur anywhere inside the mouth. A mucocele typically is a single bump with a slight bluish or normal skin color, varying in size from 1/2 to 1 inch, and it is soft and painless. A mucocele may appear suddenly, while a mucus-retention cyst may slowly enlarge.

Self-Care Guidelines

Many mucoceles will go away on their own in 3–6 weeks. Mucus-retention cysts often last longer. Avoid the habit of chewing or sucking on the lips or cheek when these lesions are present.

When to Seek Medical Care

See your doctor if the bump persists for over 2 months or if it is growing, bleeding, interfering with talking or chewing, or painful.

Treatments Your Physician May Prescribe

If the doctor is not sure of the diagnosis, a biopsy may be done. Minor surgery may be suggested to remove the lesion.

References

Bolognia, Jean L., ed. Dermatology, pp.1729-1730. New York: Mosby, 2003.

Freedberg, Irwin M., ed. Fitzpatrick's Dermatology in General Medicine. 6th ed. pp.1087-1088. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2003.