Overview

Many people experience gum pain or irritation at some point. A buildup of plaque and other bacteria is often the culprit of gum pain and irritation. This buildup can also cause bleeding and redness of the gums. But what about a bump on your gums?

While it’s often alarming to find a new bump on your body, a bump on your gums isn’t usually a medical emergency. We’ll go over seven of the most common causes and help you recognize when a bump on your gums might be a sign of something more serious.

1. Cyst

A cyst is a small bubble filled with air, liquid, or other soft materials. Dental cysts can form on your gums around your teeth. Most dental cysts form around the roots of dead or buried teeth. They grow slowly over time and rarely cause symptoms unless they become infected. When this happens, you might notice some pain and swelling around the bump.

If it’s large enough, a cyst can put pressure on your teeth and lead to weakness in your jaw over time. Most dental cysts are easy to remove with a straightforward surgical procedure. During the procedure, your doctor can also treat any dead root tissue to prevent the cyst from returning.

2. Abscess

An abscess on the gums is called a periodontal abscess. Bacterial infections cause these small collections of pus. The abscess may feel like a soft, warm bump. Dental abscesses are often very painful.

Symptoms include:

  • throbbing pain that comes on suddenly and gets worse
  • pain on one side that spreads to the ear, jaw, and neck
  • pain that gets worse when you lie down
  • redness and swelling in your gums or face

If you have a periodontal abscess, you’ll need to see a dentist as soon as possible. They can remove the source of the infection and drain the pus. Depending on how severe the infection is, they may need to remove a tooth or perform a root canal.

3. Canker sore

Canker sores are small mouth ulcers that can form at the base of the gums. They’re different from cold sores, which a virus causes. While canker sores are harmless, they can be painful, especially when they’re inside your mouth.

Symptoms of canker sores include:

  • white or yellow spots with a red border
  • flat or slightly raised bumps
  • severe tenderness
  • pain while eating and drinking

Most canker sores heal on their own within one to two weeks. In the meantime, you can apply an over-the-counter analgesic, like this one, to help with the pain.

4. Fibroma

An oral fibroma is the most common cause of tumorlike bumps on the gums. Fibromas are noncancerous lumps that form on irritated or injured gum tissue. When they happen on your gums, it’s usually due to irritation from dentures or other oral devices.

They can also appear:

  • inside your cheeks
  • under dentures
  • on the sides of your tongue
  • on the inside of your lips

Fibromas are painless. They usually feel like hard, smooth, dome-shaped lumps. Occasionally, they look more like dangling skin tags. They may look either darker or lighter than the rest of your gums.

In most cases, fibromas don’t require treatment. However, if it’s very large, your doctor can surgically remove it.

5. Pyogenic granuloma

An oral pyogenic granuloma is a red bump that develops in your mouth, including your gums. It typically appears as a swollen, blood-filled lump that bleeds easily. Doctors aren’t sure what causes them, but the thought is minor injuries and irritation seem to play a role. Some women also develop them during pregnancy, suggesting that hormonal changes might also be a factor.

Pyogenic granulomas are usually:

  • soft
  • painless
  • deep red or purple

Treatment generally involves surgical removal of the lump.

6. Mandibular torus

A mandibular torus (plural: tori) is a bony growth in the upper or lower jaw. These bony lumps are relatively common, but doctors aren’t sure what causes them.

Mandibular tori can appear alone or in a cluster. You can have them on one or both sides of your jaw.

They tend to appear on:

  • the inside of your lower jaw
  • around the sides of your tongue
  • below or above your teeth

Mandibular tori grow slowly and can take on a variety of shapes. They usually feel hard and smooth to the touch and rarely require treatment.

7. Oral cancer

Oral cancer, sometimes called mouth cancer, refers to cancer in any part of your oral cavity, including your gums.

A cancerous tumor on your gums might look like a small growth, lump, or thickening of the skin.

Other symptoms of oral cancer include:

  • a sore that won’t heal
  • a white or red patch on your gums
  • a bleeding sore
  • tongue pain
  • jaw pain
  • loose teeth
  • pain while chewing or swallowing
  • trouble chewing or swallowing
  • sore throat

It you’re worried that a bump might be cancerous, it’s best to follow up with your doctor to put your mind at ease and start treatment as early as possible if needed.

Your doctor can perform a gum biopsy. In this procedure, your doctor takes a small tissue sample from the bump and examines it for cancer cells. If the bump is cancerous, your doctor will work with you to come up with a treatment plan. Treatment may include chemotherapy, radiation therapy, surgery, or a combination of all three.

When to see your doctor

More often than not, a bump on your gums isn’t anything serious. However, you should call your doctor right away if you notice any of the following symptoms in addition to a bump:

  • fever
  • throbbing pain
  • foul taste in your mouth or foul-smelling breath
  • a sore that doesn’t heal
  • a sore that’s getting worse
  • a lump that doesn’t go away after a few weeks
  • red or white patches inside your mouth or on your lips
  • a bleeding sore or lump

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