Inspecting the inside of your mouth is usually done by your dentist at your regular checkups. However, you could be one of those who likes to peer into the depths of your oral cavity and if you happen to spot something out of the ordinary, you’re likely to panic. Which lumps are harmless, and which are more serious?
Some common causes of lumps on the palate:
- Incisive papilla usually occurs on the palate just behind the front teeth. They are quite common and usually harmless. If they become inflamed and painful, see your dentist.
- Smoking may lead to a condition commonly called nicotine stomatitis. It may appear on the palate as a white bump with a red depression in the center. It occurs mostly with cigar or pipe smoking.
- Poor oral hygiene can cause abscess formation in the mouth. Bacteria and inflammation can migrate from a decaying tooth to the root canal. If this occurs in the upper jaw, then the resulting painful bump will occur on the palate.
- Mucocele are cyst-like lumps that are harmless. They are caused by blocked salivary glands. A blocked salivary gland can occur with repeated biting or sucking. Saliva then becomes trapped in the salivary gland and results in a painless and soft lump.
- Torus Platinum is characterized by a bony protrusion from the palate. This condition is not serious, but it may increase in size as the person gets older. It is commonly about 2cm in diameter but may vary from person to person.
- Epstein Pearls occur most frequently in newborns or young children. They are harmless and cause the child no pain. Their appearance ranges from yellow to white and may also be referred to as palatal or gingival cysts. They usually disappear without any treatment after a few weeks. If this does not happen then visit your pediatrician for further advice.
- Oral cancer may be another cause of lumps in the mouth. If the lumps persist for a prolonged time, they may be an indication of the more serious disease of oral cancer. Untreated cancer cells may spread over time to other organs of the body. This type of lump can be characterized by the dark colour and irregular shape. It is best to see your doctor as soon as possible for further treatment.
- Maxillary sinus growths appear when the maxilla bone in the jaw grows unusually causing a swelling on the roof of the mouth. There are other symptoms that are associated with this type of oral lump which are headaches, sores in the nose and even a loss of smell.
- Exostosis or mandibular torus shows up in the mouth when there is a bony growth from the jaw bone protruding outwards. They usually grow on the inside of the lower jaw but can occur on the upper jaw causing a lump on the palate. Chewing hard food may cause injury in this area of the protrusion which can cause bruising and even ulcers.
- Mouth ulcers may be caused by some foods, stress and anxiety, certain hormonal changes and some diseases like anaemia and Cohn’s disease. These painful lumps commonly occur on the lips or inside of the cheeks but are known to appear on the palate, as well. They appear red, white or yellow and can be very painful. There are many treatments available from your pharmacy that will treat mouth ulcers.
- Canker sores are shallow lumps that affect areas like the gums and roof of the mouth. Sometimes before they are visible, you may experience a burning or prickling sensation. The bumps may look grey, white or yellow with a red border around the sore.
- Allergies to some foods, medicines or vaccines can cause lumps to develop in the oral cavity. They should disappear after the allergen (cause of the allergy) is stopped. Another condition that is often confused with an allergic reaction is a condition termed lichen planus. This condition will also be associated with swelling in the palate and throat area. This may have serious consequences because you may have difficulty in breathing. Seek medical attention immediately if you have difficulty in breathing.
- Sexually transmitted diseases like herpes and HIV can cause painful bumps in the mouth. A compromised immune system with these types of conditions will also cause yeast and fungal infections, which also manifest as lumps in the mouth, particularly at the back of the throat and palate.
- Dental work like a root canal and even having braces can cause bumps in the mouth. Usually, after painful dental work, people tend to neglect proper oral hygiene because of the discomfort. This may lead to a yeast infection which starts as a small pimple that continues over a long time.
- Tongue piercings can also be a cause of lumps on the palate. This occurs because the tongue and the metal piece of the piercing rest on the top of the mouth cavity with a bit of pressure when the mouth is closed. This contact can cause irritations on the palate causing bumps. The second cause of a lump with tongue piercings is due to oral infection. Not taking care of the piercing correctly can lead to infections which may appear as painful lumps on the palate.
- Salivary gland swelling on the roof of the mouth due to infection will also appear as a lumpy palate. The salivary glands may also become swollen due to a type of cancer called adenocarcinoma. This type of cancer is common in people who smoke pipes and those who place the lit end of the cigarette into the mouth.
When should you see your dentist?
Many of the causes listed above are common and usually resolve on their own with no intervention. But there are certain instances when you should seek medical attention:
- The lumps increase in size.
- The lumps are bleeding.
- They persist for longer than 2 weeks.
- The lumps are very painful.
What are the treatments available?
- Medical treatments like chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery are options for oral cancers. Depending on the type of cancer and the severity, your surgeon may opt for a local or general anesthetic. The cancerous lump will be removed, and further treatment may be necessary to prevent any further growth.
- Surgical removal of the non-malignant lump or draining the blocked salivary gland will resolve the lumps.
- Medications like antibiotics and antivirals will remove lumps caused by bacteria or viruses. These medicines will kill off the cause of the infections and the lumps will disappear. When the immune system is compromised, your doctor may prescribe extra vitamins to help build up the immune system.
- Improve your lifestyle by stopping smoking and drinking alcohol excessively. Your immune system will get stronger and be better able to fight infections. Drink water to keep your body well hydrated and this will prevent any undue oral irritations that may lead to lumps on the palate.
- Depending on the cause of the lumps, you can also rinse your mouth a few times a day with warm salty water, eat less spicy foods and take vitamins to improve your overall health- especially the B-vitamins.
What are home remedies available?
Certain lumps that are not serious in nature can be easily treated at home using ingredients that can be bought from stores.
- Goldenseal root is a type of tea that you can use as a mouth rinse a few times per day. It works as an antiseptic and will kill off any bacteria.
- Black tea will reduce inflammation and pain if a tea bag is placed over the infected area.
- Aloe vera juice can be used as a mouthwash. The many properties of aloe vera will help shrink the lumps until they disappear completely.
- Yogurt is valuable in ensuring canker sores don’t develop.
- Hot pepper sauce like tabasco sauce, when mixed with water, can be used as a mouth rinse.
- Raw honey can be applied to the affected areas. The natural antibiotic activity of honey will cure cold sores in a few days.
- Baking soda and witch hazel paste will help to decrease the pain of canker sores and hasten the healing process.
Dr. Nabil Mockbil received his DDS in 2001 from Umea University in Sweden, regarded as having the best dental programme in Sweden for undergraduates. He’snow the founder of the Swedish Dental Clinic in Dubai