Bumps in Your Mouth

“Oh my God, there is a bump in my mouth!

Well there are several bumps in the mouth that are anatomical features and are supposed to be there. For example, there is a pad in the cheek called the parotid papilla. This is a flap of tissue covering the place where saliva comes out from the parotid gland, a salivary gland in the cheek.

Another is a pad behind your 2 front teeth called the incisive papilla. This area contains both blood vessels and nerves.

Yet another example of normal bumps, is the bumps on the tongue, particularly the ones all the way back at the base of the tongue. The big ones are called the circumvallate papillae.  These are normal anatomical features.

There are some bony bumps that can exist, most commonly on the roof of the mouth or the lingual (tongue side) of the lower jaw. These are called tori (torus is the singular) and are not that uncommon and no treatment is necessary for them.

For bumps that may need some treatment, a mucus retention cyst, or mucocele can trap mucus in the lip and then burst. This is usually from injury to the duct that lets the mucus from mucus producing cells escape into the mouth.  On occasion the cyst can get very large and not drain in which case the cyst needs to be removed.  The goal is for this situation to not occur again for the patient.

Another minor type of lesion is called an irritation fibroma. This is where a harder bump can grow anywhere in the mouth but usually near the corners of the lip.  It can come from the patient chewing on his cheek causing more fibrous tissue to grow into a small bump.  These can be left alone unless they get too big and bother the patient, in which case a minor surgical procedure should be cone to remove it.

Cancer in the mouth can cause bumps which are much more irregular. These are dangerous and need immediate treatment.  An oral surgeon will biopsy the lesion and send it to a pathology lab to determine what is actually going on.  Time is of the essence!

I have had patients worry about bumps that are normal and have been there for their entire life but never noticed. On the other side, there are pathological bumps that can go unnoticed.  It’s part of what a trip to the dentist should pick up and determine the correct step to get pathologic tumors treated.