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Mouth Diseases

Swelling under tongue

04/11/2005

Question:

I am 28 years old, never smoked and generally a very healthy woman. However, for maybe 3 weeks now, I have had a swelling under my tongue. It started as a small bump on the soft tissue under my tongue. It was pink, just like all the other tissue and seemed to be just an extra growth of tissue. I thought maybe it was fluid filled and tried to pop it. I was able to pinch through it without feeling any pain at all, even though it bled slightly. It seems to grow and shrink according to how much sugar I eat. It never completely goes away and today when I looked at it, it was larger than ever and looks like a blood blister. Its always looked just like all the other tissue, but now its red/purple. It doesn`t hurt at all, but its still annoying feeling this large bump under my tongue all the time. Any thoughts on what this might be and how to get rid of it? Thank you

Answer:

This sounds a lot like a condition known as mucocele or ranula.  Essentially a mucocele is a condition that results from some injury or damage to the salivary (spit) gland tissue in the mouth.  Rather than going into the mouth to keep it moist and to help swallow food, the injured gland releases the saliva under the surface of the skin of the mouth.  This forms a bump or swelling.

The body tries to get rid of the spilled saliva, but the injured gland makes more and often there is a history of increasing and decreasing size of the bump.  If you poke at this area or injure it more, bleeding can occur that would make it look purple. 

This condition rarely goes away on its own.  To have it treated, you will need to visit your dentist or an oral surgeon to have the saliva spill and the injured gland removed (after the tissue is numbed of course).  The tissue will then be examined under the microscope to exclude the very small chance of some form of growth or tumor.

Good luck!

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Response by:

John R Kalmar, DMD, PhD John R Kalmar, DMD, PhD
Clinical Professor of Pathology
College of Dentistry
The Ohio State University