Bump in Mouth. 9 Common Causes (& When to See a Doctor)

The bump in the mouth can be caused by mild conditions or situations, like a canker sore or biting the cheek. However, they can also be caused by more serious health problems like herpes, acid reflux, stomatitis or hand-foot-and-mouth disease.

Depending on the causes, a bump in the mouth can also be accompanied by other symptoms such as a fever, irritation, sore throat, difficulty swallowing, and red spots or blisters on the hands and feet.

If you notice a bump or several bumps in the mouth, it is important to consult a family doctor for assessment and treatment as needed.

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What causes bumps in the mouth? 

Bumps in the mouth can appear for the following reasons: 

1. Cold sores

Cold sores are associated with an infection caused by the herpes simplex virus, which causes blisters or sores in the mouth. These bumps can tingle, itch, and cause pain when moving the mouth.

What to do: Cold sores do not always require treatment, as the immune system can fight the virus and resolve the symptoms within a few days. However, some medications, such as acyclovir or valacyclovir, can be prescribed by your doctor to speed-up healing and relieve symptoms. Check out the cold sore medicine your doctor can prescribe.

In addition, some home remedies, such as propolis, lemon balm and thyme tea also help to alleviate the symptoms of cold sores, as they naturally contain antiviral, anti-inflammatory, analgesic and healing effects.

2. Canker sores

Canker sores are small white blisters that can appear in the mouth, tongue, cheek or throat. They can be caused by the friction of braces, burns from food or acid reflux. They are often associated with pain and discomfort when eating and drinking.

Also recommended: What Causes Canker Sores? 7 Reasons They Keep Appearing tuasaude.com/en/canker-sores

What to do: Some tips for treating canker sores include maintaining optimal oral hygiene, and avoiding spicy and acidic foods, like pineapple, lemon and orange.

The doctor may also prescribe ointments or sprays, such as triamcinolone acetonide, hydrocortisone acetate or hexamidine isethionate, to reduce pain and speed-up healing. Learn more about what causes canker sores on the tongue and how they can be treated.

3. Mucocele

A mucocele, or mucous cyst, is a type of transparent or purplish lump filled with liquid. It can appear on the roof of the mouth, tongue or cheek, and is generally caused by blows, repetitive bites or by diseases that affect the mucous membranes , like Sjögreen's syndrome or sarcoidosis. 

Read more about mucocele symptoms that can occur.

What to do: Mucoceles generally do not need treatment and the bumps resolve within a few days. However, when the bump does not go away on its own and/or increases in size, the doctor may recommend surgery to remove the affected salivary gland and reduce swelling.

4. Tonsil stones

Tonsil stones, are small white or yellow balls that can appear in the back of the mouth or throat. They can cause symptoms such as pain when swallowing, bad breath and a feeling of something in the throat.

Also recommended: Tonsil Stones: Symptoms, Causes & How to Get Rid of Them tuasaude.com/en/tonsil-stones

What to do: Tonsil usually do not need treatment, as these lumps will fall off the tonsils on their own. However, if they cause pain, discomfort or very foul breath, your doctor may recommend the use of antibiotics or surgery.

5. Hand-foot-and-mouth disease

Hand-foot-and-mouth disease is a very common infectious disease in children that causes the appearance of red, painful blisters in the mouth and throat, as well as a fever, sore throat, difficulty swallowing and red spots or blisters on the hands and feet that can itch.

Read more about hand-foot-and-mouth disease and how it is transmitted.

What to do: Treatment for this infection should be guided by a pediatrician or family doctor, and includes the use of fever medications, like acetaminophen, medication for itching, like antihistamines, and soothing gel for canker sores.

6. Stomatitis

Stomatitis is a condition where blisters appear in the mouth, tongue and gums. They can rupture and cause wounds as well as other symptoms such as pain, difficulty eating, difficulty speaking, and fever.

What to do: To treat stomatitis, be sure to maintain thorough oral hygiene using a soft toothbrush. Rinse your mouth with alcohol-free mouthwash, and avoid alcohol and very hot, salty or acidic foods. The doctor or dentist may also prescribe analgesic, anti-inflammatory or healing ointments.

In addition, some home remedies like propolis and licorice extract can also be applied to the wounds to relieve burning and discomfort.

8. Herpangina

Herpangina is a disease that affects babies and children, and causes symptoms such as blisters or white spots in the mouth, throat swelling, high-grade fever and a sore throat.

Also recommended: Baby Fever: What It Is, Common Causes & How to Treat tuasaude.com/en/baby-fever

What to do: Treatment for this condition should be guided by a pediatrician and includes the use of analgesic medications, oral antipyretics and/or the application of anti-inflammatory and anesthetic ointments. 

9. Mouth cancer

Mouth cancer is a type of malignant tumor that can cause small red/white blisters or lumps to appear in the mouth, throat or lips. These often take a long time to heal, and can also be associated with symptoms like throat irritation, foul breath and rapid weight loss.

What to do: Treatment for this type of cancer should be guided by an oncologist, and may include chemotherapy, radiation therapy or immunotherapy.

When to see a doctor

It is recommended to consult a family doctor when the bumps in the mouth last for more than 15 days and/or if they keep recurring. You should also have any bumps in the mouth assessed if they appear with symptoms such as bleeding, fever, joint pain, diarrhea and weight loss for no apparent reason.