How to Deal with Pimples on Roof of Mouth

How to Deal with Pimples on Roof of Mouth
March 23, 2016 9:37 PM

An outbreak of acne or pimples is a wide spread problem that all of us face at one time or another and strive hard to get rid of. Most people are fairly used to the appearance of a pimple on the chest, neck, face, shoulder and upper back. But appearance of a pimple on the roof of the mouth is a cause of anxiety and concern for most.

If you have not experienced it before, you may find it bizarre to know that a pimple can appear in the mouth, especially on the hard upper palate. A pimple on roof of the oral cavity resembles a regular zit a lot that pops up on the face.

It initially starts off as a minute bump that pops up on the roof of the mouth and grows bigger and bigger over the next one or two days.

It is usually filled with pus and if you press the pimple on the roof of the mouth hard it will burst, just like a regular pimple.

Acne erupts when the pores on your skin get clogged up with oil, dirt, dead skin, as well as germs (1, 2, 3, 4). The causes of mouth pimples are quite similar. Pimples appear on the roof of the mouth when pores in this area get infected and clogged.

Mouth pimples do not occur frequently but you may notice the problem, particularly if your body secretes a surfeit quantity of sebaceous oil. Those who are vulnerable to frequent oral acne breakouts often notice the appearance of a pimple on the roof of mouth when they have a flu or cold. In addition to roof of mouth bumps (zits) may also appear in other areas of the body, such as nose, breast nipples or ear.

Common causative factors

Clogged pores

Just like any other type of acne, pimples on roof of mouth are caused by obstructed and infected pores that gather under the skin and become inflamed and irritated.  While oral cavity is not the most common place for pimples to form, some individuals with surplus oil production suffer from this type of acne. 

Irritation caused by food

A pimple on the roof of your mouth may be caused by irritation after drinking or eating anything that was too hot. Pimples inside the mouth may also be due to burning sensation caused by eating overly spicy, salty or sour foods. Therefore, ensure that the temperature of your food is normal and not too hot before consuming it. Avoid certain spicy foods.

Serious medical condition

Pimples on roof of mouth which appear again and again may be a red light for oral cancer or symptom of herpes.

Common symptoms associated with a pimple on roof of mouth

You are brushing your teeth at night or applying some gloss when you notice a pimple on roof of your mouth. A closer look reveals the onset of an angry-looking zit—and at once you start to stress. But don’t worry; most of the oral pimples are benign and harmless.

The symptoms of a zit on roof of mouth may differ from one person to another depending on its root cause.

Bump

A zit may sometimes have a white head, showing the presence of pus. Apart from the color, you may notice signs and symptoms like:

  • Tenderness
  • Itching
  • Irritation
  • Pain during eating and drinking
  • Redness and soreness

Mucocele

Mucocele is a benign lump or cyst-like pimple that develops in oral cavity, sometimes on the roof of mouth and its occurrence is attributed to blocked salivary glands (5). Normally, saliva flows from the glands to the mouth, but when the ducts are blocked, saliva gets clogged inside where it gathers and creates a bump which is soft and somewhat elastic, pearly white or bluish in color, and painless. An obstructed salivary gland is chiefly caused by recurrent sucking or biting of the interior of your mouth and may also take place if your face is subjected to a blow.

It is a benign cyst and you need not worry about it being malignant. As salivary glands are distributed throughout the mouth, mucoceles may appear in different areas of the oral cavity including the roof of mouth (6, 7).

Usually, small mucoceles do not cause any lasting damage to the oral cavity. They are generally soft and vary from two to ten millimeters in diameter. Doctors usually do not prescribe any medication because mucoceles are not painful. However, an engorged pimple on the roof of the mouth may cause pain in whole of the oral cavity.

If this happens, do not try to drain or burst open the mucocele yourself: visit your dentist immediately.

Oral cancer

A pimple on the roof of mouth which does appears repeatedly or does not go away may be a danger signal of oral cancer, which entails uncontrollable, malignant growth and reproduction of cells in the oral cavity.

Cancer in newspaper

Oral cancer can be fatal if not diagnosed and treated on time. It is characterized by dark, asymmetrical masses scattered in different areas of the mouth. Many begin in the tongue and lips before materializing in other areas and may metastasize elsewhere, most likely through lymph nodes.

Symptoms of oral cancer include:

  • Recurring persistent pimples or bumps
  • Spots
  • Soreness
  • Swelling in oral cavity
  • Lesions in the mouth
  • White or red speckled patches in the mouth
  • Oral bleeding
  • Discomfort in throat
  • Dysphagia
  • Hoarseness of voice
  • Unusual weight loss

If you notice these symptoms accompanying a pimple on roof of mouth immediately consult an oncologist.

Risk factors for oral cancer are:

  • Smoking (8)
  • Chewing tobacco
  • Binge drinking
  • Familial history of cancer
  • Excessive exposure to UV light, and HPV infection (9).
  • Men are more at risk of developing oral cancer than women

The fatality rate associated with oral cancer is very high. It is not because it is hard to discover or diagnose but because it is often not diagnosed until it is too late. If you discover recurring pimples in your mouth, pay a visit to your doctor as soon as possible.

Epstein pearls

A pimple on roof of the mouth of an infant or very young child may also be caused by Epstein pearls which are common, benign, painless cysts that affect about 80% of infants. Also known as palatal or gingival cysts, these pimples are white or yellowish bumps found on the roof of the mouth (10). They can be mistaken as emerging teeth.

Epstein pearls are formed in utero when mucous membranes become entrapped during palatal formation.

These oral pimples do not require any treatment because they are harmless, painless, and usually vanish within a few weeks. If Epstein pearls are still present after a few weeks, discuss them with the pediatrician.

Canker sores

These are bumps (aphtous ulcers) that appear on roof of the mouth, base of gums and in the inner part of cheeks and lips. The root cause of these pimples is unknown, but they are believed to be caused by allergies, hormonal disturbances, menstrual periods, poor diet and stress (11, 12). Trauma to the oral tissues, such as recent dental work or cheek biting can also lead to canker sores.

In case of pain or great discomfort, ask your doctor to drain the lesions using a sterile needle.

Cold sores

Cold sores (fever blisters) are a group of small pimples on and around the mouth including roof of the mouth. The area around these bumps is often red, swollen, and tender. They are caused by herpes simplex virus. Herpes is highly contagious and easily transmitted from one person to another. After appearing, these pimples break open, leak infectious fluid, scab and disappear after two weeks. They are accompanied by pyrexia or fever and swollen glands.

If the situation aggravates, consult a doctor for treatment.

How to treat pimples on roof of mouth?

Treatment of oral pimples is much more difficult than treating acne present on the face and the body.

Because zit outbreak is in the mouth, you cannot use typically over-the-counter acne medicine, such as a blemish cream or toning lotion, as these medications cannot be ingested. If you are tempted to pop your oral pimples it is strongly advised not to.

The fingernails may break skin and cause bacteria to nest in the pimple. Because oral cavity is a source for bacteria you could make things worse by popping your zit. Avoid continually touching the pimple, as it will quickly aggravate if it is bothered.

You can relieve the discomfort and get rid of the pimple quicker, by using a few simple home remedies.

Use of salt water or baking soda

Use a baking soda rinse or salt water to get rid of pimples on roof of your mouth.

How to use?

  • Add a few pinches of salt in a glass of lukewarm water. Swish this solution around inside your mouth and spit it out, repeating two or three times a day.
  • An alternative to this is preparing a baking soda solution. Mix one spoon baking soda with several ounces of warm water. Swish it around in your mouth and then spit it out.
  • You can also create a paste with equal parts baking soda and water. Dab this paste over the pimple with a cotton swab and let it dry. Salt water and baking soda both help the mouth heal itself by decreasing the acidity and bacteria content in the mouth.

Hydrogen peroxide solution

How to use?

Prepare a 3% hydrogen peroxide solution to chase away pimples on roof of your mouth (13).

  • Pour a minute quantity of hydrogen peroxide into a plastic soda cap and mix in an equal amount of water.
  • Dip a cotton swab into the peroxide solution and dab it only on the zit.
  • Turn the cotton swab around and repeat.
  • Empty the cap and wash it with water.

Be careful not to swallow any of the hydrogen peroxide if possible.

Hydrogen peroxide is an anti-bacterial agent that will diminish the amount of bacteria present in your mouth and help the acne heal. The canker sore should go away in about three-four days if you do it twice a day.

Essential oils as a cure for pimples on roof of mouth

Homemade numbing spray

Eucalyptus and peppermint essential oil both have anti-inflammatory properties, while also working as anti-microbial astringents to help tighten the tissues around the pimple, relieving further discomfort caused by tenderness or potential bacterial build up (14, 15, 16). The soothing properties of both of these oils can also numb the irritated and inflamed area of oral cavity.

What you need?

To prepare a spray with these two oils you will need:

  • Two tablespoons of olive or grape seed oil
  • Peppermint essential oil: Ten drops
  • Eucalyptus essential oil: Eight drops
  • A glass bottle

What you need to do?

Pour the olive or grape seed oil into the bottle, and mix in the essential oils. Cap the bottle, shake well, and spray some directly onto the pimple sore as needed for relief. Shake before using every time.

Clove oil cotton ball

Clove oil contains eugenol, a powerful painkiller, and has been used by dentists throughout the years to provide relief to patients (17). Eugenol is still used widely today, although in a pure extracted form, but clove oil remains useful for treating oral pain ranging from toothaches to oral acne.

You will need:

  • Half teaspoon of olive oil
  • Few  drops of clove essential oil
  • Cotton balls
  • Warm water or salt water

Directions:

Rinse your mouth with warm water or salt water to sterilize it, allowing the clove oil to really sink in and work its magic. Mix the clove oil with olive oil and then put a cotton ball in it. Dab the cotton ball directly onto the pimple for few minutes for numbing relief.

If you are looking for other ways how to use olive oil for treatment of acne, here is a detailed post.

Prescription mouth rinse

You have two choices available for prescription mouth rinses (18, 19, 20, 21):

  • Dexamethasone, which is a steroid mouth rinse that reduces pain and inflammation. Dexamethasone decreased the number of recurrences, but is usually an option for more severe cases.
  • Tetracycline is an antibiotic used for more extreme cases. Your pimples will heal quickly, but your mouth will become vulnerable to a fungal infection called thrush. Thrush is a fungal infection caused by yeast in the mucous membranes of oral cavity. DO NOT USE TETRACYLINE IN CHILDREN UNDER 15.

Pain relief

You can use over-the-counter painkillers, or apply benzocaine gels such as Anbesol and Orajel onto pimples if they become more inflamed and painful.

Use a numbing spray or suck on ice chips. Try to hold them over the zit, allowing them to melt over the affected area. Ice helps numb the pain and reduces inflammation.

Mouth wash

Mouthwash can treat a pimple on roof of mouth by detoxing the area and decreasing the amount of bacteria that can irritate and contaminate the spot,” says Dr. Andrews. In a majority of cases, a basic saltwater rinse will do.

Mucocele

Mucoceles often disappear without treatment. If they don't, non-surgical options to assuage swelling include steroid injections and topical medication. If surgery is absolutely required, dentists and oral surgeons may recommend one of two types of methods: removal or marsupialization. Mucocele may be removed with the use of either surgical incision or laser (22). Anesthetics may be given in order to decrease pain.

Some mucoceles bumps may require marsupialization, a treatment where the bump is pierced and sutured only at the edges of the incision, leaving the spot open so that it can drain freely. This treatment, which helps formation of a new duct, is opted for when one single draining would not be enough to drain the mucocele.

Oral cancer

Treatment of oral cancer depends on your cancer's stage and location, as well as your general personal health. You may have just one type of therapy, or you may need a combination of cancer treatments. Discuss your options with your oncologist.

Surgery:

Surgery for mouth cancer may include (23):

  • Remove the tumor by surgery. Your doctor may cut away the tumor and an area of healthy tissue that surrounds it. Smaller tumors may be removed through minor surgery. Larger tumors may need more-extensive surgical procedures. For example, to remove a larger tumor, surgeon may also have to remove a part of your jawbone or a section of your tongue.
  • Surgery to remove cancer that has reached to the neck. If the cancerous cells have spread to the lymph nodes in your neck, your oncologist may recommend a procedure to remove affected lymph nodes and adjacent tissue in the neck (neck dissection).
  • Surgery to reconstruct the mouth. After removal of tumor by surgery, your surgeon may recommend reconstructive surgery to restore the look of your face or to help you recover the ability to talk and eat. Your doctor will transplant grafts of skin, muscular tissue or bone from other parts of your body to reconstruct your face. Dental implants are used to replace natural teeth.
  • Surgery carries a risk of infection and bleeding. Surgery for oral cancer often affects appearance of patient, as well ability to eat, speak and swallow.

Radiation therapy:

Radiation therapy involves use of high-energy beams, such as X-rays, to kill cancerous cells. Radiation therapy can be applied from a machine outside of body of patient (external beam radiation) or from radioactive seeds and wires placed near affected area (brachytherapy) (24, 25).

Treatment of mouth cancer by radiation therapy may be the only course of therapy recommended if your tumor is detected at an early stage. Radiation therapy can also be used post-op. In some cases, radiation therapy is combined with chemotherapy. This combination elevates the efficiency of radiation therapy, but it also raises risks of adverse effects you may experience. In patients with advanced oral cancer, radiation therapy may help treat signs and symptoms caused by the cancer.

The unpleasant adverse effects of radiation therapy to your oral cavity may include tooth decay, dry mouth, mouth sores, bleeding, and stiffness of jaws, fatigue and redness.

Precautions

Brush your teeth gently. Brush your teeth softly with a soft-bristled toothbrush. Maintain oral hygiene and floss daily. Make sure you get proper treatment for a toothache.

Avoid stress and relax. Acne outbreak is widely related to stress during times of intense emotional depression. Pimples on roof of mouth can be exacerbated by stressors.

Pay attention to your diet and avoid fatty, oil foods.

Avoid spicy or hot foods, which can irritate pimples further. Peppers and fizzy drinks should be shunned. Fruits and vegetables such as oranges, pineapples, lemons, apples, tomatoes and strawberries may also cause pimples.

Increase intake of vitamin B12, zinc, iron, and folic acid. Take vitamin supplements if necessary but consult your doctor or nutritionist first.

Try not to irritate the inside of your mouth at all times. Avoid smoking and use of tobacco.

FAQs about pimples on roof of mouth

When to see a doctor?

These spots usually disappear without any treatment after a few days. Sometimes, you may have a persistent pimple on roof of your mouth, as it comes back time and again, after disappearing for a while. If a pimple does not disappear after three or four weeks of applying home remedies or appears again and again consult your doctor immediately because it could be an indicator of some serious medical condition like oral cancer. If the spot is due to some diagnosed disease, visit your doctor regularly to keep him updated about positive or negative developments in your condition.

How long does it take to heal?

An ordinary zit on roof of mouth disappears after two or three weeks. Pimples from mucoceles, canker sores and cold sores vanish in a few weeks. Persistent pimples require clinical attention.

Is mouthwash a good treatment option?

If the alcohol content of your mouth wash is too high, it might end up irritating the zit further more than healing it. Mouthwash use has been linked to oral cancer. 

Dental cleaning equipment

The argument over whether mouthwashes with alcohol content are connected to oral cancer continues — it’s a topic that has been discussed since the 1980s with no final answer. For now, the ADA has put its Seal of Acceptance on some brands of mouth wash containing alcohol after extensively reviewing their effectiveness and safety (26).

Things to remember

Pimples normally appear in oral cavity due to coagulated dirt and excess oil therefore maintain regular oral hygiene. Avoid smoking, chewing tobacco, sucking in your cheeks and spicy food. Pimples on roof of mouth may be a symptom of herpes or oral cancer so consult a doctor if they do not heal in a few weeks or appear more than thrice a year.

If the pimple is causing you pain use an over the counter numbing gel, suck ice chips or take a painkiller.

Some of the basic self-care ways to treat the pimple on the roof of your mouth include:

  • Gargling with a baking soda solution or salt water.
  • Maintaining proper dental hygiene.
  • Sucking on ice chips.
  • Consider changing your toothpaste as it might be the culprit. Toothpastes or mouthwashes that have sodium lauryl sulfate in them can cause breakout of pimples and exacerbate them. Try placing natural toothpaste into your oral hygiene regimen.

Pimples caused by mucoceles, Epstein pearls, canker sores usually heal on their own within a short period of time. However, apply an over-the-counter product, gargle your mouth with salt water or mouth wash and abstain from eating spicy foods to reduce your discomfort. You are advised to consult a doctor if they persist for more than three weeks or if they occur repeatedly. Surgery, chemotherapy or drainage of spot by needle is required in serious cases.

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Written by: Michal Vilímovský (EN)
Education: Medical student, 3rd Faculty of Medicine, Charles University, Prague, Czech Republic
Article resources:

See numbered references within the article.

Image resources:

Dollarphotoclub.com and Pixabay.com

Published: March 23, 2016 9:37 PM
Last updated: March 28, 2016 7:00 PM
Next scheduled update: March 28, 2018 7:00 PM
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