All The Reasons Why The Roof Of Your mouth Hurts

Updated: Sep 2

Why is the roof of your mouth hurting? You don't quite recall if anything happened to it but is there something you should do about it or could you watch it?


Normal roof of the mouth
Normal roof of the mouth

Table of Contents:



Why the roof of your mouth hurts when eating and swallowing

The most common reason for having pain on the roof of your mouth is from food related causes and that can affect your eating and swallowing. It may feel sore and tender during meal times once this happens and it may persist for the next few days.


Injury from hard foods

It is fairly easy to injure the roof of your mouth when you're eating hard bread such as a french baguette. The hard pieces of bread may scrape or cut the top of your mouth. Another common culprit would be tortilla chips or taco shells but any type of hard food when not chewed slowly can potentially cause harm to the roof of your mouth.


roof of mouth injury from eating
roof of mouth injury from eating


What to do - You should take your time and chew your foods slowly. Do not rush while having your meal because in addition to injuring your mouth, you can also get indigestion.



Burns from hot foods

Hot soup or hot pizza can sear the top of your mouth and cause a burn that can last for a couple of days. This can happen if you are hungry and get inpatient by not waiting for the food to cool before you eat it.



What to do - Give your hot foods a minute or two to cool down a bit before you start eating. This will let the temperature come a closer to room temperature so that it wouldn't be possible to burn your mouth.



Dry mouth

Saliva acts as a lubricant and protects the roof of the mouth from minor scratches or cuts. If you have a dry mouth, you may be more prone to mouth injuries. The scientific term for dry mouth is Xerostomia and that may be caused by either medications or dietary habits.

  • Dietary habits such as excessive alcohol consumption, coffee, or an electrolyte imbalance.

  • A variety of medications can decrease salivary flow:

  • Blood pressure medication

  • Antidepressants

  • Anxiolytic medication

  • Antihistamines

  • Decongestants

  • Muscle relaxants

  • Pain medications


What to do - Unfortunately, it is typically not possible to decrease the dosage of your medications because they are being used to treat other health conditions. Our dentists in long island city recommend that you increase your water intake throughout the day so that you stay dehydrated.

  • Drinking more water will also help replenish your electrolytes.

  • Whenever possible, it is also recommended to decrease alcohol and caffeine consumption. The caffeine and tannins in coffee will dry out your mouth!


Non food related causes of why the roof of your mouth hurts

Aside from food injuries, the roof of your mouth can hurt from a variety of other causes such as genetics and also lifestyle choices. These are mostly outside of your control and may require professional intervention by a dentist or a physician.


Canker sores and cold sores

Both types of these sores can occur anywhere in your mouth such as on your lips, your cheeks, and even on the palate. If you happen to have a canker sore on the roof of mouth, it may cause pain upon eating and swallowing.


canker sore

What to do - If you are frequently getting sores, there have been studies that have shown a possible correlation with a vitamin deficiency. You may want to get some blood tests with your physician to see if that is your situation. Otherwise salt water rinses would be the most gentle mouthwash for keeping the sores clean. The canker sores may take a week or two to go away completely.



Oral cancer

Yes, you can get cancer anywhere on your body and that includes inside the mouth and the roof is no exception. If you're noticing a change in color or some new growth on your hard palate, you may want to get it examined by a doctor because it could be oral cancer.


oral cancer

What to do - If you suspect that you may have cancer in the mouth, you need to go see your dentist immediately. Your general dentist may refer you to an oral surgeon or an oral pathologist for a definitive diagnosis. From that point on, you will most likely continue receiving treatment at a hospital or cancer center.



Excessive smoking

Heavy smokers can cause severe irritation for the hard palate, resulting in a condition called nicotine stomatitis or otherwise known as smoker's palate. The physical appearance of this condition looks like a cluster of small red dots on the roof of your mouth. This is condition should not be confused with oral cancer because this one can go away as long as you remove the offending agent, which is usually tobacco.


smokers palate

What to do - If you're having smoker's palate from too much smoking, our LIC dentists would recommend that you decrease the amount that you're smoking at least until the roof of your mouth heals. Optimally you should quit completely because the cigarettes can cause lung cancer and a whole host of other problems.



Ill fitting dentures

If you've been wearing the same set of dentures for more than ten years, they may not fit like they use to. If the dentures are ill fitting, it may rub and irritate the top of your mouth resulting in a condition called epulis fissuratum. This may cause cuts and sores that make it painful for you to swallow.


epulis fissuratum

What to do - If the roof of your mouth hurts from ill fitting dentures, it may be time for you to get a new set of dentures. You should contact your dentist to have them made but you may need to wait a week or two for your mouth to heal before making them.

What to do about the pain on the roof of your mouth



Overgrown Torus Palatinus

Not everyone has a flat palate because 9-60% of the population may have a bony protrusion usually in the midline of the roof of the mouth. This is a completely harmless condition and is usually not painful nor does it affect your lifestyle. What may happen is if your torus palatinus happens to be very large it may be more prone to injury from hard foods. Aside from that, the only other situation where it would be a problem is if you need an upper denture made. The extra bony growth may interfere with making the denture.


Torus palatinus

What to do - Having a torus is typically a non-issue but if you are having sores on the roof of your mouth very frequently, you may want to have this extra bone removed. Your oral surgeon can perform a surgical procedure to reduce the size of the torus palatinus. That would be a permanent solution for your problem.



HIV - Human Immunodeficiency Virus

This autoimmune disease may have oral manifestations such as sores and lesions on the roof of your mouth. These lesions could cause pain when eating and swallowing but for the vast majority of people, they should've already been diagnosed with HIV. These clinical presentations on the palate are usually secondary effects of HIV.


What to do - You should follow up with your physician regarding your HIV status because your dentist isn't suppose to be managing your condition.



Fungal infection

It is possible to get fungal infections in your mouth and the condition is called oral thrush. It could affect anywhere within the entire oral cavity and its physical appearance looks like white splotches of cottage cheese. It is due to an overgrowth of the fungus called Candida Albican. It can be extremely irritating and cause mouth pain with redness.


oral thrush

What to do - Your dentist can prescribe you an antifungal medication.

  • Diflucan is a systemic antifungal in pill form.

  • Clotrimazole Troche is a lozenge that you can let dissolve in your mouth.

  • Nystatin rinse to be used as an antifungal mouthwash.



Shingles

Shingles is the adult version of chickenpox. Yes, it can recur once you are an adult even if you already had chickenpox as a child. This is a viral infection that causes very painful rashes and blisters. A distinct symptom of shingles is that it usually only affects a small portion of one side of your body. In the case of your mouth, the shingles may only form rashes or blisters on one half of the roof of your mouth, either the left side or right side.


shingles in the mouth

What to do - There are antiviral medications for treating shingles. There is also a vaccine for it if you haven't gotten it. Preventing the condition from occurring would be the best option! If you haven't received the vaccine for it yet, you may want to ask your doctor to check your antibody levels because getting chickenpox as an adult is much more painful than as a child.



What to do about the pain on the roof of your mouth

There are some home remedies that you can use to help alleviate some of the pain but they will be temporary in nature.

  • Salt water rinse. Use salt water rinses for any cuts or injuries to your mouth. Do not use any acidic mouthwash such as Listerine or hydrogen peroxide because they can burn the wound.

  • Painkillers. Take painkillers to reduce the amount of pain while the injuries are going through its natural healing process.

  • Dietary habits. Alter your dietary habits such as avoiding hard foods and trying to drink more water to be hydrated.

The rest of the conditions usually require the intervention of a medical professional so you should book a consultation appointment with them. The genetic diseases and ill fitting dentures are examples of what you would not be able to fix at home. Only a dentist can do that for you.



Takeaway

The roof of your mouth normally shouldn't hurt you and if it does, there may be something wrong with it. It is best to consult a healthcare professional to get a proper diagnosis of what is causing pain on the roof of your mouth. Depending on what it is, the treatment will also differ.


Note: All of the photos aside from the very first one are not ours and we do not claim any credit for them.


Author: Written by Dr. David Chen, a general dentist in long island city.


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About the author: Dr David Chen, DDS

Hello, I'm Dr Chen and I'm an actively practicing dentist in Long Island City, NY. I graduated from Columbia University College of Dental Medicine in 2016 but prior to going to dental school I was already working in the dental field. It's been more than a decade since I first got to know dentistry and let me tell you, time flies by quickly. Since then I've developed a fondness for writing, which is how this all got started!

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Medical Disclaimer:

This blog is purely meant for information purposes and should not be used as medical advice. Each situation in your mouth is unique and complex. It is not possible to give advice nor diagnose any oral conditions based on text nor virtual consultations. The best thing to do is to go in person to see your dentist for an examination and consultation so that you can receive the best care possible.

The purpose of all of this oral health information is to encourage you to see your dentist and to inform you of what you may expect during your visit. Due to the unfortunate nature of dentistry, there isn't really any true home remedies that will get rid of dental problems. Roughly 99.99% of them require in-person intervention by a healthcare professional.

Hint: That is the reason why you can't eliminate seeing dentists in your life!