If your infant has a small white or yellow-tinted bump on their gum line or the roof of their mouth, it’s likely an Epstein pearl. This is a type of gingival cyst that affects newborns.

Epstein pearls are fairly common, occurring in 60 to 85 percent of newborns. They’re also more common in babies who:

  • are born to older mothers
  • are born past their due dates
  • have a higher birth weight

While Epstein pearls might look unusual, they’re harmless. Read on to learn more about Epstein pearls, including whether they can occur in adults.

What are the symptoms of Epstein pearls?

Epstein pearls don’t cause any symptoms beyond their appearance. You’ll likely notice them along the gums or roof your baby’s mouth. Epstein pearls look like whitish-yellow nodules, about 1 to 3 millimeters in size. They sometimes appear similar to incoming teeth.

What do Epstein pearls look like?

Can adults have Epstein pearls?

Epstein pearls only occur in newborn babies. But adults can develop a dental cyst that looks similar to an Epstein pearl.

Such cysts in adults often form near the roots of dead or buried teeth. They usually don’t cause any symptoms unless they become infected. When this happens, you might feel pain and swelling around the cyst.

Dental cysts sometimes grow over time. If they grow large enough, they might put pressure on your teeth, leading to jaw weakness.

This type of cyst can be removed through a straightforward surgical procedure. Your doctor can also remove any dead root tissue, which will reduce the chances of the cyst coming back.

Learn more about what might be causing a bump on your gums.

What causes Epstein pearls?

Epstein pearls happen when the skin of a baby’s mouth becomes trapped during the development process. As the mouth continues to develop and take shape, this trapped skin can fill with keratin, a protein found in skin. The keratin is what makes up the inside of an Epstein pearl.

These bumps develop in the womb and aren’t preventable. If your child was born with Epstein pearls, it’s not a sign of anything you did or didn’t do during pregnancy.

Do Epstein pearls warrant a visit to the doctor?

Epstein pearls are harmless. But if your baby is showing signs of pain or irritability, it may be a good idea to follow up with their doctor. Epstein pearls are very common, so their doctor will likely be able to identify these bumps just by their appearance.

Depending on your baby’s symptoms, their doctor might examine their mouth to check for signs of natal teeth. These are teeth that some babies are born with. They’re pretty rare, but they can look very similar to Epstein pearls.

Their doctor might also want to rule out oral thrush. This is a type of yeast infection that can cause small white bumps or a white coating in your baby’s mouth.

Epstein pearls tend to go away on their own within a few weeks after birth, but may persist for several months. If you’re still noticing the bumps after several weeks and they don’t seem to be getting any smaller, make a doctor’s appointment to make sure the bumps aren’t the result of something else.

Are Epstein pearls treatable?

Epstein pearls don’t require any kind of treatment. In many cases, they’ll disappear on their own within a week or two of birth. The friction in your baby’s mouth from breastfeeding, bottle feeding, or using a pacifier helps to quickly break down and dissolve the bump.

What’s the outlook?

Epstein pearls can look alarming to new parents, but they’re harmless. They usually dissolve on their own a week or two after birth.

Epstein pearls shouldn’t cause any pain, so if your baby is showing signs of discomfort, there may be something else going on. In that case, you should contact your baby’s doctor.