Salivary Gland Disease Cysts

Cysts are common, membrane-covered, sac-like structures that can grow anywhere in the body. Cysts can be filled with fluid, gas or semi-solid material. Hundreds of kinds of cysts exist, and they can be microscopically small or big enough to crowd other organs. Most cysts are harmless.

Different kinds of salivary gland cysts exist as well. Salivary gland cysts can develop in the parotid glands, which are found in your upper cheeks, near your ears. You can also find salivary gland cysts in the submandibular and sublingual glands, the other major salivary glands, as well as in the 600 to 1,000 minor salivary glands scattered throughout the oral cavity.

Most cysts aren’t cancerous, but even a benign cyst can cause problems. If you have cysts, mouth problems can result, since even a painless, benign cyst can grow large enough to interfere with eating, speaking or swallowing.

Development of Salivary Cysts: Mouth Injuries and More

Salivary gland cysts are sometimes found in newborns, due to problems with ear development during gestation.

After birth, salivary gland cysts can be the result of salivary gland stones or infection. Although typically benign, these cysts can interfere with saliva flow.

With other cysts, mouth injury may be the cause. Frequently found inside the lower lip, this type of benign cyst is called a mucocele, and is filled with mucus.

Salivary Gland Cysts and HIV

Salivary gland cysts can form in the parotid gland. People with HIV infection have a tendency to develop salivary gland cysts in this area. In fact, the connection between HIV infection and salivary gland cysts in the parotid gland is so strong that if doctors have a patient with persistent parotid cysts, an HIV test is often recommended.

Treating Salivary Gland Cysts

If you discover a new lump or swelling in your mouth that doesn’t go away, contact your doctor or dentist, even if the bump causes no pain. Most salivary gland cysts can be treated without complication, but it is helpful to rule out other problems.

Some salivary gland cysts, particularly a small, benign cyst, will drain and disappear on their own. Mucoceles can release a straw-colored liquid.

Larger salivary gland cysts, even a benign cyst, can grow big enough to require treatment. Treatment options for salivary gland cysts include:

  • Compresses
  • Drawing off fluid with a needle
  • Laser surgery
  • Medication to reduce saliva flow
  • Traditional surgery.


Harvard Medical School. (2007). Salivary gland disorders. Retrieved September 27, 2010, from