Roof of Mouth Hurts

The roof of the mouth is also known as the palate. Even though many people may experience pain at the level of the palate, this does not mean that the problem stems from the same source (different causes may be behind the appearance of the pain). Apart from the pain, you may also experience soreness or a burning/stinging sensation in the same area. In general, the symptoms are aggravated by the intake of hot or spicy food. The pain at the level of the palate is also common in people who snore. Based on the symptomatology that you present, the doctor will identify the cause and recommend an adequate treatment.

Keep in mind that the roof of the mouth can become easily irritated, as the oral mucosa is one of the most sensitive parts of the body (especially as it comes in contact with a wide range of potentially-irritating substances). The pain at the level of the palate can interfere with common daily activities, such as speaking or eating. The sooner you deal with the problem, the sooner you get back to your normal routine.

Anatomy of the Roof of Mouth

roof of mouth anatomy

Picture showing the anatomy of the roof of mouth

As it was already mentioned, the roof of the mouth is known in the medical world as the palate. Speaking from an anatomical point of view, the roof of the mouth can be divided into the hard and the soft palate. You can recognize the hard palate as being located in the front part of the roof of the mouth, while the soft palate is found in the back. The two palates are also different in composition – the hard palate is constituted out of bone, while the soft palate, as the name clearly points out, consists out of soft tissue.

What Causes Pain in the Roof of Mouth?

These are the most common causes that can lead to the appearance of pain at the level of the palate:

  • Burning mouth syndrome
    • Pain/discomfort at the level of the palate
    • Unknown cause – it has been suggested that the syndrome is caused by an abnormality at the level of the sensory nerves (of the oral cavity)
    • Risk factors – anemia, yeast infection
  • Infection (oral cavity)
    • Pain at the level of the palate
    • Bacterial or viral infection
    • Most common infections include:
      • Strep throat
      • Sinusitis
      • Staph infection
      • Gingivitis
      • Stomatitis
      • Thrust
      • Cold
      • Oral thrush
  • Oral cancer
    • Severe condition
    • Pain at the level of the palate, extending to the entire oral cavity
    • Most common – melanoma, lymphoma
  • Cold sore
    • Also known as fever blister
    • May cause pain or discomfort at the level of the palate (aggravated by eating)
    • The foods that are spicy, hot or have a high acid content can easily aggravate the mucosal lining of the palate
  • Canker sore
    • Also known as aphthous ulcer
    • The pain is due to small and shallow lesions that appear at the level of the oral mucosa (including the palate)
    • Not contagious
    • Do not appear on the surface of the lips
    • Chewing and speaking can be difficult due to the existent lesions
  • Other causes
    • Allergy
    • Dental abscess
    • Diabetes
    • Infection at the level of the ear
    • Perimenopause
    • Menopause
    • Ill-fitted dentures
    • Vitamin/mineral deficiency
    • Herpes
    • Smoking/chewing tobacco
    • Alcohol drinking (chronic)
    • Eating food that is either too hot or too spicy (regular basis).

Treatment for Mouth Roof Pain

These are the most common methods of treatment that can be taken for such problems:

  • Burning mouth syndrome
    • Substances that are meant to replace the saliva
    • Oral rinse (with/without lidocaine)
    • Analgesics (block the pain)
    • Capsaicin (natural remedy with pain relieving properties; it is a common substance in chili peppers)
    • Anti-depressants/anticonvulsants
    • Behavioral therapy
  • Infection
    • Bacterial – antibiotics (these should be taken for as long as they are prescribed, otherwise the bacteria will develop resistance to the treatment)
    • Viral – antiviral medication; anti-inflammatory medication
  • Oral cancer
    • Chemotherapy and radiation therapy (non-surgical)
    • Surgical removal of cancerous cells (if possible)
    • Pain medication (helps the patient deal with the symptoms, improves the quality of life)
    • Supportive care, oxygen therapy (in the more advanced stages of the disease)
  • Cold sores
    • May clear up without any treatment
    • If necessary, the treatment includes:
      • Antiviral drugs
        • Speed up the healing process
        • Recommended choices – acyclovir, famciclovir and penciclovir
  • Canker sores
    • May go away on their own, without any treatment being necessary
    • Potential remedies include:
      • Mouth rinse
        • Mouth wash with dexamethasone (corticosteroid) – anti-inflammatory and analgesic effect
        • Oral suspension (tetracycline) – reduced healing time, elimination of bacterial infection; may increase the risk of oral thrush and it can also discolor the teeth (especially in children)
      • Topical applications
        • Recommended choices – fluocinonide, amlexanox and benzocaine
        • Better healing process, analgesic effect on existing lesions
        • Application recommended to be performed 2-4 times/day
      • Oral medication
        • Oral corticosteroids – recommended for the more severe cases; anti-inflammatory and analgesic effect; cannot be administered for prolonged periods of time (negative side-effects)
      • Cautery
        • May be performed with the help of a chemical substance (debacterol) or with a surgical instrument
        • Reduced healing time
        • Silver nitrate may also be used for the cautery of the canker sores
      • Nutritional supplements
        • Recommended choices – vitamin B complex, zinc, folic acid.

Self Care and Home Remedies

If you have noticed that your roof of the mouth hurts, first of all, you should analyze your diet. Be sure to eliminate all of the foods that are either too spicy or too hot. Reduce your alcohol intake to a minimum and be sure to quit smoking (the same goes for chewing tobacco, as both habits are equally harmful). The smoke from the cigarettes has a powerful irritating effect on the mucosal lining, the irritation being further aggravated by the intake of alcohol. It is also recommended that you resort to relaxation techniques, meditation and the practice of yoga in order to keep the daily stress under control (stress is known to favor the appearance of canker sores).

In regard to the natural remedies, these are the most recommended choices:

  • Saline solution
    • Mix sea salt with water
    • Gargle with the saline solution several times per day
    • Pain-relieving properties + salt acts as a natural disinfectant
  • Milk
    • Gargle or rinse your mouth with milk
    • Natural protective coating at the level of the oral cavity
    • Calms the sores and also prevents the appearance of new ones
  • Aloe vera
    • Recommended choice – fresh aloe vera applied directly to the tongue
    • Duration of application – one week
    • Soothing effect on the sores
  • Baking soda
    • Natural remedy with analgesic and disinfectant properties
    • Mix the baking soda with water and rinse your mouth
    • The procedure should be repeated 2-3 times per day
  • Yoghurt
    • Increase the intake of yoghurt when suffering from mouth sores
    • Can also alleviate the problems caused by the intake of spicy food
    • May help with the symptoms of oral thrush.


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