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Dental and Oral Health (Children)

Is ranule removal necessary?

05/16/2008

Question:

My 3 year old went to the dentist and he said she had a ranule. At that time the ranule was visible, I was then referred to a surgeon who said that he wanted to do surgery to open the ranule and test it, and he said that after the surgery that I should use lemon to help the salivary ducts.

I was very skeptical of putting my daughter under the knife at such a young age, and I was not too comfortable with the dentist, so I waited a few months and got another referral, I have not made the appointment but the ranule seems to have disappeared.

Is the ranule surgery necessary? Can`t the ranule go away by itself?

I am not sure if I want someone to operate on my toddler. The bump is gone, at least it is not visible and it is not causing her any pain. I have been keeping check on it since the first dentist appointment and it has decreased in size, and now it seems to have disappeared.

Answer:

A ranula is a collection of saliva just beneath the lining of the mouth in the area under the tongue. This is probably caused by tearing or injuring one of the small tubes (ducts) that carry saliva from the salivary gland to the lining of the mouth. Essentially a ranula is a harmless process, but many people find it somewhat annoying because the ranula fills up (sort of like a water balloon) and eventually bursts (which is usually a painless event). The lining of the mouth then heals over, and the process repeats itself. Your 3-year-old may not even be aware that this is happening.

Sometimes the duct re-establishes a connection with the lining of the mouth, and the ranula will no longer develop. Other times the salivary gland tissue becomes so inflamed (irritated) that it scars down and becomes non-functional, again with the result that the ranula no longer recurs. Is it absolutely necessary that surgery be done for every ranula? Probably not.

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Response by:

Carl M Allen, DDS, MSD Carl M Allen, DDS, MSD
Professor Emeritus of Oral Pathology
College of Dentistry
The Ohio State University