Overview

Lumps and bumps aren’t uncommon in your mouth. You may have experienced them before on your tongue, lips, or the back of your throat. Many things can cause a bump on the roof your mouth, including a canker sore or a cyst. Most causes are harmless.

1. Torus palatinus

Torus palatinus is a bony growth in the middle of the hard palate, also known as the roof of your mouth. It can vary in size, from hardly noticeable to very large. Even if it’s large, torus palatinus isn’t a sign of any underlying disease. Some people are simply born with it, though it might not appear until later in life.

Symptoms include:

  • hard lump in the center of the roof of your moth
  • bump that’s either smooth or lumpy
  • bump that grows slowly larger throughout life

Most cases of torus palatinus don’t require treatment. If the lump gets too large to allow for dentures or becomes irritating, it can be surgically removed.

2. Nasopalatine duct cyst

A nasopalatine duct cyst can develop in an area behind your two front teeth that dentists call your incisive papilla. It’s sometimes called a cyst of the palatine papilla.

These cysts are painless and often go unnoticed. If it becomes infected or causes irritation, the cyst can be surgically removed.

3. Canker sores

Canker sores are small red, white, or yellow sores that can occur on the roof of your mouth, tongue, or the inside of your lips and cheeks. Canker sores aren’t contagious. They can develop at any time. Other symptoms may include:

  • pain
  • difficulty swallowing
  • sore throat

Canker sores go away on their own within 5 to 10 days. If you have a painful canker sore, you can try using an over-the-counter numbing agent, such as benzocaine (Orabase). You can also try these 16 home remedies for canker sores.

4. Cold sores

Cold sores are fluid-filled blisters that typically form on the lips, but can sometimes form on the roof of your mouth. They’re caused by the herpes simplex virus, which doesn’t always cause symptoms.

Other symptoms of cold sores include:

  • painful blisters, often grouped in patches
  • tingling or itching before the blister forms
  • fluid-filled blisters that rupture and crust over
  • blisters that ooze or appear as an open sore

Cold sores heal on their own within a few weeks. They’re very contagious during that time. Certain prescription medications, such as valacyclovir (Valtrex), can speed up healing time.

5. Epstein pearls

Epstein pearls are whitish-yellow cysts that newborns get on their gums and the roof of their mouths. They’re very common, occurring in 4 out of 5 newborns, according to Nicklaus Children’s Hospital. Parents commonly mistake them for new teeth coming in. Epstein pearls are harmless and usually go away a few weeks after birth.

6. Mucoceles

Oral mucoceles are mucus cysts that can form on the roof of your mouth. Mucoceles typically form when a small injury irritates a salivary gland, causing a buildup of mucus.

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 can last for several days or weeks, but they usually don’t require treatment. They rupture on their own, often while you’re eating, and heal a few days later.

7. Squamous papilloma

Oral squamous papillomas are noncancerous masses caused by human papilloma virus (HPV). They can form on the roof of your mouth or elsewhere in your mouth.

Symptoms include a lump that:

  • is painless
  • grows slowly
  • looks like a cauliflower
  • is white or pink

Most cases don’t require treatment. They can be surgically removed if they cause any problems.

8. Injuries

The tissue on the roof of your mouth is sensitive and vulnerable to injuries, including burns, cuts, and irritation. A severe burn can develop a fluid-filled blister as it heals. A cut or puncture wound can also swell and feel like a lump. In addition, ongoing irritation, often from dentures or other devices, can cause a lump made of scar tissue, called an oral fibroma.

Symptoms of a mouth injury include:

  • pain
  • bleeding or cut tissue
  • burning sensation
  • burn that blisters or crusts over
  • bruising
  • firm, smooth lump of scar tissue, which can be a flat under dentures

Minor mouth injuries usually heal up on their own within a few days. Rinsing with warm salt water or diluted hydrogen peroxide can help speed up healing and prevent infection.

9. Hyperdontia

Hyperdontia is a condition that involves the development of too many teeth. Most extra teeth develop in the roof of your mouth, behind your two front teeth. If the lump you feel is at the front of the roof of your mouth, it could be caused by an extra tooth coming it.

Although it’s very rare, it’s also possible for an extra tooth to grow farther back on the roof of your mouth.

Additional symptoms of hyperdontia include:

  • facial pain
  • headache
  • jaw pain

Hyperdontia can be detected on routine dental X-rays. If your dentist does find evidence of extra teeth coming, they can usually remove them without any major problems.

10. Oral cancer

Oral cancer refers to cancer that develops anywhere inside your mouth or on your lips. While not common, cancer can develop in the salivary glands on the roof of your mouth.

Symptoms of oral cancer include:

  • a lump, growth, or thickening of the skin in your mouth
  • a sore that doesn’t heal
  • a bleeding sore
  • jaw pain or stiffness
  • sore throat
  • red or white patches
  • difficulty or pain when chewing or swallowing

Treatment for oral cancer depends on the location and stage of the cancer. Using tobacco products increases your risk of developing oral cancer. If you smoke and notice a lump anywhere in your mouth, it’s best to have your doctor take a look. If you have an increased risk of developing oral cancer, it’s also a good idea to know about the early warning signs.

When to see a doctor

In many cases, a bump on the roof of your mouth isn’t anything to worry about. However, make sure to contact your doctor if you notice the following:

  • You’ve been in pain for more than a couple of days.
  • You have a sore that won’t heal.
  • You have a serious burn.
  • It’s too painful to chew or swallow.
  • Your lump changes in size or appearance.
  • There’s a foul-smelling odor in your mouth.
  • Your dentures or other dental devices no longer fit properly.
  • A new lump doesn’t go away after a few weeks.
  • You’re having trouble breathing.