Salivary Gland Cysts, Infections, and Tumors

The salivary glands can be injured as a result of fights and lacerations of the head and neck. The damaged duct or gland may leak saliva into the surround- ing tissue, forming a fluid-filled cyst called a mucocele. This occurs most often in the mandibular glands, located in the floor of the mouth. Mucoceles in this location are known as a honey cysts or ranulas. A ranula presents as a large, smooth, rounded swelling in the floor of the mouth on the right or left side of the tongue.

Mucoceles cause problems when they become large enough to interfere with eating or swallowing. If a needle is inserted into the swelling, a thick, mucuslike, honey-colored material is extracted. This may eliminate the prob- lem, but more often surgery is required. It involves draining the cyst into the mouth. If this is not successful, the salivary gland can be removed.

Salivary gland infection is uncommon. Most cases are associated with preexisting mouth infections. The zygomatic gland, located beneath the cheek bone, is the gland most often involved. The signs of zygomatic gland infection are a bulging eye, tearing, and pain on opening the mouth. Treatment involves removing the gland.

Tumors of the salivary glands are rare. Most are malignant. They appear as slowly enlarging lumps or masses located beneath the tongue or on the side of the face. Small tumors can be cured with surgical removal.