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4 FAQs About Necrotizing Sialometaplasia

Dentist Blog

Necrotizing sialometaplasia is an inflammatory, ulcerative condition that affects the salivary glands. Here are four frequently asked questions you may have about it.

What are the signs of necrotizing sialometaplasia?

If you have necrotizing sialometaplasia, you will notice an ulcerative lesion inside your mouth. This lesion can occur at any of the salivary glands in your mouth, though most of the time, the salivary glands in the roof of the mouth are affected. The lesion is yellow-grey or grey-white and the bone beneath the lesion may be exposed.

Surprisingly, these lesions do not always cause symptoms. Some people experience pain, numbness, or tingling in the area, while other people will not realize they have the lesions until the dentist in their town discovers them during a routine examination.

What causes it?

The exact cause of necrotizing sialometaplasia is still unknown. The current theory is that the condition arises from an inadequate blood supply to the salivary glands.

This may happen due to trauma to the salivary glands or the use of alcohol or tobacco. Local anesthetic, surgical procedures, and radiation treatment may also lead to blood supply issues. Long-term use of an inhaler to control asthma may also play a role. More research needs to be done to confirm these potential causes.

How is it treated?

Your dentist will need to take a biopsy of the lesion to diagnose it. This needs to be done because the lesions associated with necrotizing sialometaplasia look similar to oral cancer. If the lesion is shown to be noncancerous, no treatment will be required. These lesions go away by themselves.

While your lesion heals, your dentist may offer medications to treat any symptoms you have, like pain. You may be given a prescription for a painkiller. If the lesion is infected, you will be treated with antibiotics.

How common is it?

One study examined 10,000 oral biopsy specimens and found that necrotizing sialometaplasia was present in 0.03% of the samples. The real prevalence may be higher than this finding as the condition can heal spontaneously without ever being biopsied or recorded. 

This condition is reported to be more common among white people than people of other races and more common among males than females. The mean age at diagnosis is 43 years for women and 50 years for men.

If you notice an ulcerated lesion on the roof of your mouth, or on any of your other oral tissues, make sure to bring it to your dentist's attention immediately.


14 September 2015