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What's a Ranula? A "Frog" In Your Mouth

They say when you "have a frog in your throat," you have trouble speaking. Well, if a ranula, Latin for "little frog," goes untreated, it can be the source of that problem. A ranula is a cyst that forms under your tongue and a common salivary gland disorder, according to the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI). If the below information sounds like something you're dealing with, it would be smart to have your dentist take a look and treat it.

Prevalence and Symptoms

It's always good to know what you're looking for when it comes to ranulas. A ranula is a cyst that forms under your tongue filled with saliva due to a damaged salivary gland. Ranulas that remain under your tongue are simple. In contrast, plunging ranulas grow down into your neck. Symptoms include:

  • Soft and bluish
  • Approximately 2-3 inches in diameter
  • Usually painless
  • Occasionally large ones affect swallowing, speech, and chewing
  • If infected, pain and fever are possible

Ranulas are pretty rare and found most often in children, adolescents, and young adults.

Causes and Diagnosis

Ranulas appear when salivary glands aren't working correctly. It could be that your submandibular duct needs to be looked at. But chances are it's the gland found under your tongue, your sublingual salivary gland, that needs attention. According to the Nationwide Children's Hospital, ranulas occur when:

  • The saliva from these glands doesn't drain properly into your mouth as it should
  • That's due to a damaged, diseased, or ruptured salivary gland
  • The injury from the gland creates swelling and for saliva to accumulate
  • The saliva then overflows onto tissues next to the gland producing a cyst — a ranula

According to the Western Journal of Emergency Medicine, an ultrasound is needed to differentiate a ranula from other cysts.

Treatment

There are a few options to consider when you and your dentist treat your ranula.

  • No treatment
    • Usually reserved for smaller ranulas that show minimal symptoms
  • Surgical removal
    • According to the NCBI, usually, the ranula legion and salivary gland are both removed
  • Marsupialization
    • This surgical procedure opens up, drains, and attempts to dry out the cyst, without removing the gland, according to the NCBI
  • Salivary gland ablation
    • Performed by radiologists, medication is injected into the salivary gland in an attempt to shrivel up the surrounding tissue, according to Nationwide Children's Hospital

Healing

The 2 most common treatments are surgical removal and salivary gland ablation.

  • Concerning surgical removal:
    • The stitches should dissolve, medication may be needed, and scarring will disappear within a few months
  • Concerning salivary gland ablation:
    • Swelling will be present for 1-2 weeks while numbness around the tongue lasts up to 4 weeks, according to the Nationwide Children's Hospital

Often, ranulas pop up on their own. That's the reality. But by keeping your oral hygiene and oral health at a high level by regularly examining your mouth — you and your dentist should be able to find the best treatment plan for squashing that frog in your throat.

This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.

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