Girl with mouth cyst
Badge field

What is a Mouth Cyst?

Published date field Last Updated:
Published date field Last Updated:

Medically Reviewed By Colgate Global Scientific Communications


A mouth cyst, also known as a mucous cyst or mucocele, is a small, fluid-filled sac inside your mouth. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), these cysts are harmless and painless, but they can be bothersome because you may notice a bump in your mouth.

These cysts commonly occur on the inside of the lips but can also form on your tongue, palate, inside of the cheeks, floor of the mouth, or around piercings on the tongue or lips. A cyst on the floor of your mouth is called a ranula, and a cyst on the gum is called an epulis. The mucocele sac is bluish and clear and contains clear fluid. Your dental professional can usually diagnose a mucous cyst just by looking at it.



Oral mucous cyst symptoms include:

  • Typically painless, although they can be bothersome due to their noticeable presence in the mouth.

  • Frequently manifest as clear, bluish, or pink, with a soft, smooth, round, and dome-shaped appearance.

  • Vary in size, with diameters of up to 1 centimetre.

  • They may spontaneously rupture, but they can also reoccur.

Ranula symptoms include:

  • Typically painless swelling on the floor of the mouth.

  • Frequently appears as a bluish, dome-shaped protrusion.

  • If large, it can impact activities like chewing, swallowing, and speaking.

  • If the cyst extends into the neck muscles, it can lead to a cessation of breathing, which necessitates immediate medical attention.


Potential Complications Associated with Cysts

Cysts are generally considered harmless, but they can give rise to specific issues, including;

  • Pain and discomfort: They may cause pain, mainly if they are large or located in an area that frequently experiences irritation, such as the lip.

  • Infection: Mucous cysts can become infected, especially if they rupture.

  • Obstructing ducts: Cysts can block the ducts for carrying saliva from the salivary glands to the mouth. This can result in dryness of the mouth and difficulty swallowing.

  • Damage to tissues: Mucous cysts can grow larger if left untreated. Cause damage to surrounding tissues like nerves and blood vessels.


Tests Used for Diagnosing Cysts

Sometimes, a simple physical examination is sufficient for diagnosing mucous cysts.

However, there may be instances where the dental professional might recommend tests such as;

  • Biopsy: A biopsy involves extracting a tissue sample from the cyst and examining it under a microscope.

  • Ultrasound: An ultrasound is an invasive imaging test that utilizes sound waves to generate images of internal structures.

  • CT scan: A CT scan employs X-ray technology to produce images of structures. 

To minimize the likelihood of developing cysts, there are steps you can take;

  •  Refrain from biting or sucking on the lips or cheeks.

  •  Avoid getting any piercings in the mouth.

  •  Maintain hygiene by regularly brushing and flossing.

  •  If you notice any concerns related to a cyst, consult with a dental professional.


Causes of Mouth Cyst

The cause of these fluid sacs on the lips, gums, or inside of the cheeks is believed to be sucking the tissue between the teeth. Not intentionally sucking the cheeks or lips may prevent some cysts from forming, but some cysts can appear at random.

Common sites and causes of mucous cysts include:

  • The inner surface of the upper or lower lip, inside the cheeks, or bottom surface of the tongue: These are called mucoceles.

  • Floor of the mouth: These are called ranula and are caused by blockage of the salivary glands under the tongue.


How to Prevent Mouth Cysts?

There are a few things you can do to prevent the cyst in mouth, including:

  • Avoid biting or sucking on the lips or cheeks. This is one of the most common causes of mouth cysts. Try to break the habit of biting or sucking on the lips or cheeks.

  • Use a lip balm or moisturizer to keep the lips from drying out. Dry lips are more likely to crack and become irritated, which can lead to mouth cysts.

  • Avoid smoking and using other tobacco products. Tobacco can irritate the lining of the mouth and increase the risk of developing mouth cysts.

  • Maintain good oral hygiene. Brush the teeth twice daily and floss once daily to remove plaque and bacteria from the mouth. This will help to keep your gums healthy and reduce the risk of developing mouth cysts.

Eating a healthy diet, drinking plenty of water, and getting regular dental checkups and cleanings are also important. By following these tips, you can help to keep the mouth healthy and prevent the development of mouth cysts.


How to Treat a Mouth Cyst?

If you are wondering how to get rid of cysts in the mouth, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) says that mucous cysts often do not require treatment because they usually rupture on their own. Continue your usual home oral care routine, brushing twice a day and flossing once a day.

If a mouth cyst becomes uncomfortable or irritated, interferes with chewing, or does not go away in a couple of weeks, see a dental professional. They may use a sterile needle to open the top of the cyst to drain the fluid, and eventually, it will disappear.

Treatment of Mucous Cysts

Most mucous cysts will go away on their own without treatment. However, if a cyst is large, painful, or persistent, your dental professional may recommend one of the following treatments:

  • Freezing (cryotherapy): This is done by using a liquid nitrogen spray to freeze the cyst. It will cause the cyst to blister and rupture.

  • Laser treatment: Dental professionals will use a laser to remove the cyst.

  • Surgery: The cyst will be removed by making a small incision in the skin.

Treatment of Ranulas

Ranulas is more likely to require treatment than other types of mucous cysts. Treatment options for ranulas include laser and surgery. Removing the cyst and the gland that caused it is always better. 

Important: Do not try to open a mucous cyst or ranula yourself. This can lead to infection and damage to the tissue.


How to Remove Mouth Cyst?

Sometimes, your dental professional or an oral surgeon will choose to surgically remove the cyst, especially if it returns after being opened. Surgery complications are very rare, involving the standard risks of surgery, such as infection or an adverse reaction to the local anesthesia. Always talk to your dental professional and ensure you understand the risks.

If the cyst does not open on its own and you do not receive treatment, a permanent bump inside the mouth may form. These bumps are harmless, but see your dental professional if something new forms in your mouth and you have concerns. Hence it is essential to ensure that they evaluate this area by examination and an x-ray if needed. Your oral health is a part of your total health.


Home Care After Removing the Cyst

After removing a cyst, following your dental professional’s guidance is crucial for a smooth recovery. This might include:

  • Taking prescribed pain medication.

  • Using ice to lessen swelling and discomfort.

  • Keeping the area clean and dry.

  • Avoiding strenuous activities.

  • Attending regular checkup appointments

You can usually anticipate returning to routine within a few days or weeks after cyst removal. Nevertheless, pay attention to your body and take rest when necessary.