The roof of the mouth, also known as the palate, serves as a barrier between the nose and the mouth. It is made of a bony part in front and a soft part behind.
Due to its location, a bump can be quite worrisome and may sometimes interfere with speech or swallowing.
There are many reasons why you may have a bump on the roof of your mouth. Most times, it’s not a serious problem and might resolve with little or no treatment. Less commonly, it may be a sign of something serious.
What Can Cause It?
1. Mouth Sores
Sores in the mouth usually appear on the gums, inner cheek, lips, and sometimes on the roof of the mouth. The sores usually start as painful bumps before the sore appears. Canker sores which are usually induced by stress or a suppressed immune system and cold sores- a viral infection caused by the Herpes Simplex Virus (HSV) are the common mouth sores that appear on the roof of the mouth.
2. Injury or Trauma
Trauma is one of the most common causes of swelling on the roof of the mouth. This trauma can be caused by a burn from hot foods or drinks like pizza and coffee, eating hard foods, or a scratch from sharp foods like a fishbone
Also, trauma from a faulty or sharp tooth filling and oral appliances like a denture can also cause it.
In severe cases, dehydration, which can lead to a dry mouth, can be a cause of a palatal swelling. Some of the causes of dehydration and dry mouth are not drinking enough water, certain blood pressure medications, and illness.
This is a swelling that occurs in the mouth and contains mucus. This swelling is induced by a minor injury to the mouth or face and usually appears on the lower lip and sometimes on the roof of the mouth as a bluish swelling. They are usually painless and may resolve without treatment. However, treatment may be required if it increases in size or recurs.
Papillomas are painless non-cancerous swellings that can occur on the roof of the mouth. It is caused by the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV). The swelling is usually soft, pink in color, and cauliflower-shaped. It may also be large enough to disturb swallowing.
6. Torus Palatinus
This is a hard, bony growth that occurs in the roof of the mouth. It can also occur in the lower jaw. This is one of the more common causes and is not dangerous. It can increase in size as you get older and this can be quite annoying and can also affect the fitting of upper dentures.
7. Oral Candidiasis
This is also called oral thrush and is caused by an overgrowth of Candida albicans, a fungus. It causes creamy white or yellowish spots on the tongue and inner cheek. It can also spread to the roof of the mouth or back of the throat, appearing as white or red-colored bumps.
This condition is usually seen in babies, elderly people, and people with suppressed immunity such as uncontrolled diabetes mellitus and HIV. It can also be seen on the palate underneath upper dentures that are not well cleaned and taken care of.
8. Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease
This is a viral infection caused by the Coxsackie virus. As the name implies, the virus infects the mouth, hands, and feet causing painful red bumps on the gums, lips, and roof of the mouth. It also causes red rashes on the hands and feet. Other symptoms include fever and body aches. There is no specific treatment for this as the symptoms resolve in about two to ten days.
A cyst is a swelling that is filled with either fluid or semi-solid material. If it occurs in the roof of the mouth in the area behind your two front teeth, it is called a nasopalatine duct cyst. These cysts are painless unless it becomes infected.
Another type of cyst, called a periapical cyst, also appears on the roof of the mouth. It is usually the result of trauma to the front teeth. The swelling is usually soft, painful, and there may be straw-colored discharge. The involved teeth may also appear discolored.
10. Tooth Abscess
Infection of the front teeth, called the central incisors, due to trauma, fracture or extensive tooth decay can lead to pus accumulation causing the formation of an abscess in the roof of the mouth. There is also associated pain, difficulty in eating or swallowing and sometimes pus discharge.
This is a condition that involves the development of extra teeth. These extra teeth can develop in the roof of the mouth behind the two front teeth. In rare cases, the tooth may grow further down in the palate. If you feel a bump in this area, this might be the cause. This can be confirmed with the aid of a dental radiograph.
12. Oral Cancer
Cancer of the oral region usually presents as a painful, non-healing sore or swelling. It can occur on the roof of the mouth, tongue or gums. It is usually caused by smoking, the use of tobacco products, and HPV infection.
When To See A Doctor
Some of the causes of bumps or swelling on the roof of the mouth may resolve spontaneously, however, you should see your doctor if you have any of the following:
- Swelling that lasts longer than one week
- Pain that does not go away even after taking over-the-counter analgesics
- A non-healing sore that may bleed
- Bad breath or a bad taste in the mouth
- Associated fever or body aches
- Rashes on hands and feet
- Pus or fluid discharge
The treatment is based on the cause.
Sores that appear on the roof of the mouth like canker sores, cold sores or bumps from hand, foot and mouth disease usually resolve in about a few days to a week without treatment. Warm water and salt rinse, analgesic gels and oral analgesics can help to relieve the pain.
Bumps on the roof of the mouth as a result of an infected or abscessed tooth is treated by your dentist doing a root canal procedure on the affected tooth or extracting the tooth. Also, an incision is made and the pus is drained under local anesthesia.
Antibiotics and analgesics like diclofenac or ibuprofen will be prescribed to treat the infection and pain.
If the bump is as a result of an extra tooth/ teeth, it needs to be extracted by your dentist.
Bumps caused by candidiasis can be treated by the topical application of antifungal creams such as nystatin to the roof of the mouth. Systemic antifungal medications can also be used. Co-management by a physician is also needed to treat any underlying medical cause.
In severe viral cases, antiviral medications like acyclovir may be prescribed to speed up the healing. Underlying conditions such as stress or suppressed immunity also needs to be addressed.
When the bump is as a result of injury from hot food or trauma from a sharp filling, warm salt water rinse, vitamin C tablets and analgesics like paracetamol can aid the healing process. The healing should be complete in about 7 to 10 days. Faulty or sharp ends of tooth fillings and sharp ends of dentures or other mouth appliances also need to be adjusted by your dentist.
Bumps due to non-cancerous swellings like mucocele, cysts like nasopalatine duct or periapical cyst, or papilloma may be cut by an oral surgeon if they become large, cause discomfort in swallowing or comes and goes. They are later sent to the lab to be viewed under the microscope to confirm the diagnosis.
Torus palatinus on the roof of the mouth is not harmful and can be left alone. But in cases where it becomes too large and interferes with speech, swallowing or proper fitting of upper dentures, the growth needs to be reduced surgically.
Oral Cancer Care
In suspected cases of oral cancer as the cause of the bump on the roof of the mouth, expert management by an oral surgeon and an oncologist is required. Treatment options include surgery and chemotherapy, surgery and radiotherapy or a combination of the three. Also, measures to help quit smoking can also help in its prevention.
A bump on the roof of your mouth may not be a serious issue most times but in some cases, it can be an indication of an underlying problem. If the swelling does not resolve in a few days or becomes painful, visit your dentist.
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