It is not uncommon to experience small bumps on the roof of your mouth throughout your lifetime. In most cases, with a little bit of time, the bump heals and goes away. But what happens if it doesn’t? The good news is most causes of those bumps do go away on their own or are easily treatable. However, there are some cases where these bumps can be an indication of an underlying condition that needs immediate attention.
- Physical injury: Burns, cuts, or irritation from dentures, broken teeth, or brushing can cause red spots or sores needing medical attention.
- Canker sores: Shallow white/yellow lesions from injuries, sensitivities, stress, hormonal shifts, or underlying conditions.
- Throat infection: Strep throat can cause red spots, sore throat, pain, swelling, and fever, needing antibiotics.
- Cold sores: Viral infection with fluid-filled blisters, contagious, managed with medication.
- Hyperdontia: Excess tooth development causing hard/sharp bumps on roof of mouth, may require dental extraction.
Why do bumps appear?
While they all seem like just a bump on the roof of your mouth, they can be different in appearance and what causes them. In our office, we often get questions about bumps in the mouth, and this list gives a brief description of the possible types of bumps and their underlying causes. In many cases, time is all you need for them to heal, but in some cases, medications is necessary. Additional treatment of an underlying issue may be required.
1. Physical injury
Injuries, such as cuts or burns, are the most common cause of red spots or sores on the roof of the mouth. These injuries can occur when you drink something too hot, you have poor-fitting dentures that irritate the soft tissue, you have a broken tooth or an uneven filling, or you were brushing your teeth and scraped the roof of your mouth. These injuries, and subsequent red spots or sores, will heal on their own within a week or two. If the red spot does not heal or worsens, check with your doctor or dentist to ensure it did not get infected or there is no underlying condition causing complications.
2. Canker sores
Also known as aphthous ulcers, canker sores are shallow, small lesions that form in the mouth’s soft tissue. They are usually white or yellow with a red border. They are commonly found in the cheeks or the base of your gum line. However, they can also form on the soft tissue of the upper palate or roof of your mouth. They are not contagious and are typically caused by minor mouth injuries, such as cheek bites, food sensitivities, stress, and hormonal shifts like during menstruation.
Certain conditions, such as celiac disease, Crohn’s or ulcerative colitis, and HIV can also contribute to canker sores. A typical canker sore will heal on its own within a week or two. If you have canker sores lasting longer or becoming frequent, talk with your doctor or dentist about possible underlying conditions making you more susceptible to them.
3. Throat infection
Strep throat is a bacterial infection caused by Streptococcus and affects the throat and tonsils. While spots typically form on the tonsils, strep can also cause red spots to form on the roof of the mouth. With strep, you will typically experience a sore throat, pain when swallowing, swollen tonsils and lymph nodes, and a fever. If you suspect strep throat, see your physician as soon as possible. This infection requires antibiotics, and once treated, the spots will go away as well.
4. Cold sores
Cold sores, or fever blisters as they are often called, are a viral infection caused by herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1) or herpes simplex virus type 2 (HSV-2). While commonly found on the lips, these can occur inside the mouth, including the roof of the mouth. Cold sores are highly contagious. While there is no cure for these, medications can help control the outbreaks. Sores appear as fluid-filled blisters that can rupture and ooze before scabbing over. These herpes lesions typically last a week to 10 days.
If the bump on the roof of your mouth seems hard or even sharp, there is a chance you could have a condition known as hyperdontia. Hyperdontia is a condition that causes excess tooth development. These can grow anywhere in the curved areas where the teeth are attached to the jaw. Dental x-rays can show these additional teeth and tooth extraction can remove them.
6. Torus palatinus
If the bump on the roof of your mouth is extremely hard, it could be excess bone growth. This can happen at any age and can continue growing throughout your life. Treatment isn’t necessary unless it begins to affect your ability to eat, drink, or talk.
Mucoceles, or a mucous cyst, is a clear or bluish limp that can appear on the roof of your mouth but also on your lips, tongue, or inside the cheeks. These cysts occur when mucus builds up in the salivary gland openings or ducts. While they can last for as long as several years, they typically dissolve on their own within a few weeks. When they do not dissolve on their own or become larger, disrupting your ability to eat, a dentist may use cryotherapy, laser treatment, or surgery to remove the cyst.
Candidiasis, or oral thrush, is a yeast infection caused by the fungus Candida. This fungus is normally found in the digestive tract and aids in digestion and gut health. However, certain infections or antibiotic use can cause the fungi to multiply and spread into the mouth. When this occurs, you can experience white or red patches in the mouth, including on the roof of your mouth. You may also experience a loss of taste, cottonmouth, and pain when eating or swallowing. Treatment for candidiasis involves antifungal medications and addressing any underlying cause of the overgrowth.
9. Squamous papilloma
If you notice painless, cauliflower-like textured bumps, this is likely squamous papilloma. These lumps are caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV). While these bumps are noncancerous, HPV has been linked to an increased risk of cancer. Squamous papilloma typically heals and go away without treatment, but you should talk with your dentist and physician about possible increased cancer risks.
10. Oral cancer
Bumps or areas of oddly shaped patches of tissue on the roof of the mouth can be a sign of oral cancer. These lumps are often white, gray, or bright red and appear suddenly without an underlying cause. They may open and bleed. In addition, these sores will not heal or go away. If you have a bump that does not heal within two weeks, it is a good idea to have it checked by your dentist or physician. In most cases, it is not cancerous, but it is good to have it checked and addressed early. At Soundview Family Dental, we also include oral cancer screenings during our routine dental exams to help catch oral cancer early.
When should you be concerned?
The good news is that most causes of oral bumps on the roof of the mouth go away with little to no treatment. However, if you have a lump or spot that does not heal within two weeks, you should make an appointment with your dentist to have it evaluated. At Soundview Family Dental, our professional dentist, Dr. Kitts, is here to help you with your concerns. Contact us online or call the office at (425) 563-6360 today to schedule an appointment.