A Bump on the Roof of Your Mouth: 9 Causes

Gina Arena
Medically reviewed by Gina Arena, Research Fellow Written by Leon Mao, Medical Writer on February 21, 2023
A bump on the roof of your mouth may be caused by various factors, including burns or injuries, canker sores or cysts, or infections such as candidiasis or hand, foot, and mouth disease.

If you've ever felt a bump or lump on the roof of your mouth, you're not alone.

While they can be concerning, most bumps in the mouth are harmless and may be caused by a range of conditions such as canker sores, cold sores, or cysts.

However, in some cases, a persistent bump or sore that bleeds could indicate a more serious condition like oral cancer [2].

In this article, we'll explore 9 common causes of a bump on the roof of your mouth and provide advice on when to seek help from a doctor.

1. Torus palatinus

Torus palatinus is a bony lump that can be found in the middle of the hard palate.

These bumps in the roof of your mouth can range in size from small to large [3]

However, even if it's large, it is not a sign of any underlying medical condition. Some people are born with it, while others don't develop them until later in life if at all.

Symptoms include:

  • A firm, bony protrusion in the middle of the hard palate [4]
  • A bump that is either smooth or irregular in shape
  • A growth that gradually increases in size over time

In most cases, treatment is not necessary for torus palatinus. However, if the growth becomes too big to accommodate dentures or causes discomfort, surgical removal is an option.

2. Nasopalatine duct cyst

A cyst is a closed sac or capsule that contains fluid, air, or other material. They can occur in many different parts of the body, including the skin, ovaries, kidneys, and liver.

Cysts can be non-cancerous (benign) or cancerous (malignant), and the symptoms and treatments depend on the type and location of the cyst.

A nasopalatine duct cyst can appear behind the two front teeth, and is sometimes referred to as a cyst of the palatine papilla [5].

Nasopalatine duct cysts are typically painless and may not be noticed [6]. However, if the cyst becomes infected or causes irritation, surgical removal is an option.

3. Canker sores

Canker sores are tiny lesions that may develop on the roof of the mouth, inside of the lips and cheeks, or on the tongue.

Canker sores aren't contagious and can develop at any time.

Symptoms may include:

  • Pain
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Sore throat
  • Red, white or yellow in appearance

Canker sores generally heal on their own within 5 to 10 days. For those who experience pain, over-the-counter numbing agents like benzocaine (Orabase) can be used.

4. Cold sores

Small fluid-filled blisters that form on the lips are known as cold sores, which are usually caused by the herpes simplex virus and can be quite painful [7].

Some symptoms of cold sores include [8]:

  • Tingling or itching before the blister forms
  • Fluid-filled blisters that rupture and crust over
  • Blisters that ooze or look like an open sore

Cold sores usually heal on their own within a few weeks, but they are very contagious during that time.

Some prescription medications, such as valacyclovir (Valtrex), can help speed up healing time.

5. Epstein pearls

Epstein pearls [9] are small, white bumps that can appear on a baby's gums. They are thought to be caused by the blockage of the ducts of the submandibular gland.

Epstein pearls are harmless and will usually resolve on their own within a few weeks.

6. Mucoceles

A mucus cyst called an oral mucocele [10] can develop on the roof of your mouth.

When a salivary gland is irritated, such as from a minor injury, it can cause mucus to build up and form a mucocele.

Symptoms of mucoceles include lumps that are:

  • Round, dome-shaped, and fluid-filled
  • Transparent, bluish, or red from bleeding
  • Alone or in groups
  • White, rough, and scaly
  • Painless

Mucoceles typically do not need treatment and tend to subside on their own within a few days or weeks. They tend to rupture spontaneously, often while eating, and then heal within a few days.

7. Squamous papilloma

Oral squamous papillomas are noncancerous growths that are caused by the human papilloma virus (HPV) [11]. They usually form on the roof of your mouth but can also form in other areas of your mouth.

Symptoms include a lump that:

  • Is painless
  • Grows slowly
  • It looks like a cauliflower
  • Is white or pink

In most cases, treatment isn't necessary, but if the lump is causing problems, it can be removed surgically.

8. Injuries

The roof of your mouth is an area that is prone to burns, cuts, and irritation.

Burns can cause fluid-filled blisters, while cuts or puncture wounds can swell and appear as lumps.

Consistent irritation from dental devices or other sources can result in the development of a scar tissue lump known as an oral fibroma [12].

The following are signs that you may have an injury in your mouth:

  • Discomfort
  • Torn or bleeding tissue
  • Burning sensation
  • Blisters or crusting caused by a burn
  • Bruising
  • Smooth lump of scar tissue that is flat underneath dentures

For minor injuries in the mouth, you don't typically need any special treatment since they generally heal on their own in just a few days.

You can speed up the recovery process and decrease the risk of infection by rinsing your mouth with warm salt water or diluted hydrogen peroxide.

9. Oral cancer

Cancer that grows in the mouth or on the lips is known as oral cancer. Although not very common [13], it can also occur in the salivary glands located on the roof of the mouth.

Symptoms of oral cancer may include:

  • A lump, growth, or thickened skin in the mouth
  • A sore in the mouth that doesn't seem to heal
  • A sore that bleeds
  • Pain or stiffness in the jaw
  • Sore throat
  • Red or white patches in the mouth
  • Difficulty or pain when chewing or swallowing

To treat oral cancer, it's important to consider the location and stage of the cancer.

One of the risks that can lead to oral cancer is the use of tobacco products. If you smoke and feel a lump in your mouth, it's crucial to have it examined by a doctor.

It's also important to know the early warning signs of oral cancer if you have a higher risk of developing it.

When to see a doctor

There are many cases where a bump on the roof of your mouth is nothing to worry about. Still, if you notice any of the following symptoms, it's important to contact your doctor:

  • Pain that lasts more than a couple of days
  • A sore that doesn't heal
  • A severe burn
  • Difficulty chewing or swallowing due to pain
  • A lump that changes size or appearance
  • A foul odour in your mouth
  • Dentures or other dental devices no longer fit properly
  • A new lump that doesn't disappear after a few weeks
  • Difficulty breathing

Frequently asked questions

Why do I have bumps on the roof of my mouth after eating?

Small bumps or red spots that appear on the roof of the mouth are common and usually caused by various factors like food irritation, mouth infection, or wearing dentures. Although they can be uncomfortable, they are typically harmless and may resolve on their own.

What are the small bumps on the roof of the mouth that come and go?

Oral mucous cysts, also known as mucoceles, can form when a salivary gland becomes irritated or inflamed, causing mucus to build up and form a round, fluid-filled bump or growth. Generally, mucoceles are not considered a serious concern and will typically heal on their own, although it may take a few weeks.

Medical fact-checkers
Medical reviewers
Last medically reviewed on February 22, 2023
Zable has strict sourcing guidelines and relies on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations. We avoid using tertiary references. You can learn more about how we ensure our content is accurate and current by reading our editorial policy.
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This content is general in nature and is for informational purposes only - it does not constitute medical advice. Content on Zable is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Read more from our Content Disclaimer

Leon Mao
Written by Leon Mao
Medical Writer, University of Melbourne
Published on February 21, 2023
Gina Arena
Medically reviewed by Gina Arena
Research Fellow, University of Western Australia
Reviewed on February 22, 2023
Article last updated on May 23, 2023
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