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Mouth Diseases

Sudden bump

06/03/2008

Question:

I was at work the other day when I suddenly got a bump on my lip and I`m talking about like actually on my lips like where you put lip balm on and whatnot. It was very strange because I was talking to a co-worker just fine with nothing on my lips or anything then like after maybe an hour I start to feel like this weird tingling on my lip and I looked in a mirror and saw a small bump then a few minutes later I glanced into the mirror again and saw that it had swollen up. It grew larger from the first check. Then I saw like a second smaller one forming a little bit away from that one but it stayed small and the larger over about a thirty minute period went down and did nothing the rest of the night. Now it`s just looks--well feels dry and a bit scaley. I`m very freaked out about it because it was so sudden and nothing has ever happened before, so what could be the possible reasons for this?

Answer:

Your description could represent a couple of different conditions, but does not exactly fit either.

The more common problem, known as mucocele or mucus extravasation phenomenon, occurs when the small salivary (spit) glands of the mouth (including near the edge of your lips) develop a leak in their internal tubing. Saliva (or mucus) spills out and creates a bubble or bump that may be more or less visible depending upon how shallow or deep the spill occurs. Mucoceles, though, rarely resolve (or go down) as quickly as you described and frequently recur.

The less common consideration is something called angioedema. This condition usually represents an allergic-type reaction to something (food, cosmetics, lip balm, etc.) that triggers mast cells and may respond to anti-histamine treatment. Other causes are known but some would require blood testing to diagnose. The lip swelling that occurs in angioedema can be rapid and dramatic and can also resolve fairly rapidly. In most cases, though, the lip swelling is generalized (creating a "fat lip" appearance) and individual bumps like the ones you described are not commonly reported.

Should this problem continue, I would recommend that you see your dentist or a dental specialist to help with its diagnosis and management.

Good luck!

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Response by:

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