Bumps on the gums can occur for many reasons, such as tooth decay, oral fibroma, and, in rare cases, mouth cancer. Treatment depends on the cause.

Often, these bumps develop in response to irritation from plaque or food debris. In some cases, however, they may be a sign of something more serious.

This article outlines the causes of a bump on the gums, along with information on treatments and when to see a doctor.

Each of the following conditions may cause bumps to develop on the gums:

Canker sores

More than 50% of people in the United States develop canker sores. These are small, round, painful bumps that may develop in the following areas:

  • gums
  • tongue
  • soft palate
  • inner cheeks
  • lips

Experts do not know what causes canker sores, but some believe they develop when the immune system mistakenly attacks the mucosal cells that line the mouth.

Around 80% of sores measure less than 1 centimeter (cm) in diameter and cause only minor pain and irritation. These usually resolve within a week.

Around 15% of sores measure more than 1 cm in diameter. These can cause severe pain and may take 2 or more weeks to heal. They often leave a scar.

Approximately 5% of sores develop in small clusters, which may merge to form ulcers. These clusters take around a week to heal.

Diagnosis and treatment

People should see a dentist if the sore lasts for longer than 10 days. A dentist will inspect the sore to rule out other conditions.

Treatment aims to decrease pain, speed up healing, and prevent recurrence. Common treatments include emollients and antiseptic agents.

Oral thrush

oral thrush br image credit cdc sol silverman jr dds 1999 brShare on Pinterest
Image credit: Sol Silverman, Jr., D.D.S., 1999

Oral thrush, or candidiasis, is a yeast infection that affects the mouth. It occurs due to an overgrowth of a type of yeast called Candida.

People with oral thrush may notice white bumps or patches on the gums, inner cheeks, tongue, or roof of the mouth.

Other symptoms of oral thrush include:

  • mouth redness or soreness
  • a cotton-like feeling in the mouth
  • redness and cracking at the corners of the mouth
  • loss of taste
  • pain when eating or swallowing

Candida usually lives harmlessly inside the body, without causing any problems. However, the following factors can cause these yeast to multiply:

  • poor oral health
  • taking certain medications, such as antibiotics and inhaled corticosteroids
  • a weakened immune system

Diagnosis and treatment

A doctor can usually diagnose thrush simply by looking inside the mouth.

Treatment may include application of an antifungal medication, such as clotrimazole, miconazole, or nystatin.

For severe infections, a doctor may prescribe an antifungal tablet such as fluconazole.

Dental cyst

a crack of the tooth and root splitting it in two even pieces which has caused a lateral periodontal abscess image credit coronation dental specialty group 2014Share on Pinterest
Image credit: Coronation Dental Specialty Group, 2014

A dental cyst is a fluid filled sac of tissue in the gum that can develop when the soft tissues or pulp within a tooth die.

Cysts usually form around the roots of dead teeth or in areas where teeth have not developed properly.

Dental cysts and dental abscesses are not the same thing. A dental abscess is a pocket of pus that develops near the root of a tooth due to bacterial infection.

Symptoms of a dental cyst include:

  • swelling of the gum around the tooth
  • a feeling of pressure around the tooth
  • intense pain in the tooth and surrounding tissues
  • signs of decay in nearby teeth

As the cyst grows, it can weaken the bones around the teeth. In severe cases, it can result in tooth loss.

Diagnosis and treatment

People who suspect that they have a dental cyst should visit a dentist. Without prompt treatment, a cyst may become infected and develop into an abscess.

A dentist will take an X-ray or MRI of the tooth in order to pinpoint the location of the cyst.

Following this, treatment may include:

  • Endodontic therapy: This involves the dentist cleaning out the infected tooth pulp using a file-like instrument.
  • Surgery: This involves opening up the area around the gums to gain access to the cyst. Surgery may be necessary if the cyst is deep inside the jaw.
  • Tooth extraction: The dentist may need to remove the tooth and clean out the socket. If they do, they will then pack the space with an artificial bone compound to prevent the cyst from coming back.

Periodontal abscess

Gingival abscess. Image credit: DRosenbach, 2010Share on Pinterest
Image credit: DRosenbach, 2010

A periodontal abscess is an accumulation of pus within the gums surrounding a tooth. They are an immune system response to infection.

A periodontal abscess may appear as a red bump that pushes through the inflamed gum tissue. People with an abscess may also experience a throbbing pain in nearby teeth.

This type of abscess is often the result of severe gum disease, or periodontitis. In periodontitis, the gums become inflamed and pull away from the tooth.

This results in the formation of deep pockets between the tooth and gum, which accumulate bacteria.

Diagnosis and treatment

A dentist will take a dental X-ray to determine the location and extent of the abscess.

Treatment involves removing the source of the infection and draining the pus. This may include:

  • Incision and drainage: This involves cutting the gum to drain the abscess.
  • Root canal treatment: This involves drilling into the tooth to gain access to the roots. The dentist will then remove the abscess, fill the root canal, and seal the tooth with a filling or crown.
  • Tooth extraction: This may be necessary if root canal treatment is not possible.

Mandibular torus

Right mandibular torus. Image credit: DRosenbach, 2010Share on Pinterest
Image credit: DRosenbach, 2010

A mandibular torus is a harmless bony growth inside the mouth. It may occur in following areas:

  • the floor of the mouth
  • the roof of the mouth
  • the outer gum of the upper molars

Mandibular tori often develop in pairs, with each growing on opposite sides of the mouth. Although they can be quite large, they are not painful and rarely cause symptoms.

Diagnosis and treatment

Mandibular tori usually do not require treatment. In most cases, a dentist will simply monitor the size and shape of the growths during routine checkups.

In rare cases, a mandibular torus may become large enough to interfere with speech or oral hygiene practices. In such cases, the dentist may recommend surgery to remove it.

Oral fibroma

Fibroma of oral mucosa. Image credit: Klaus D. Peter, 2009Share on Pinterest
Image credit: Klaus D. Peter, 2009

An oral fibroma is a noncancerous growth that develops inside the mouth. The bumps it causes can be a millimeter to several centimeters in size, and they tend to be white or pink. They rarely cause symptoms aside from a bump.

Oral fibromas usually grow in response to injury or irritation. They can develop in any of the following places:

  • gums
  • tongue
  • inner cheeks
  • inner lips
  • floor of the mouth

Diagnosis and treatment

Although most oral fibromas are harmless, a dentist may recommend removing them if there are irritating.

After removing the growth, the dentist may send it for further analysis. This is a precaution to check for the presence of cancerous cells.

Oral cancer

Oral cancer is a cancerous growth or irritation that develops in any part of the mouth or the upper part of the throat.

Oral cancers can differ in texture and appearance. They may look like:

  • lumps or bumps
  • thickened areas
  • rough spots or crusts
  • persistent sores or irritations
  • red or white patches
  • small, eroded areas

Other symptoms of oral cancer include:

  • a sore throat, or a feeling that something is stuck in the throat
  • numbness
  • hoarseness or changes to the voice

People who experience any of the above symptoms for 2 weeks or longer should visit their doctor or dentist.

Diagnosis and treatment

A dentist may detect abnormalities in the mouth during a routine checkup and may refer someone to a doctor for a more thorough examination.

In some cases, a doctor may perform a biopsy. This involves removing all or part of the lesion and sending it to a laboratory for further examination. Diagnosis may also include X-rays or MRIs of the affected area.

The precise treatment depends on the type and stage of the cancer, but it usually consists at least one of the following:

People should see a doctor if they have any type of oral lesion that lasts more than 2 weeks.

Although such lesions are often harmless, it is essential to rule out more serious conditions as early as possible. In most cases, early detection of oral cancers increases the success rate of treatment.

People should see a doctor or dentist immediately if they suspect they have a dental cyst or an abscess.

Without prompt treatment, these conditions can lead to further complications, such as widespread infection and tooth loss.

Most bumps on the gums are relatively harmless and often disappear without treatment within a few days.

In some cases, a bump on the gums can indicate something more serious. People should see a doctor if they have a persistent or painful bump or another type of lesion in the mouth.

Certain conditions, such as dental abscesses and potentially cancerous growths, require urgent medical attention. Early treatment usually results in a better outcome.