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Updated on December 30, 2022
6 min read

Soft Palate Pain: Causes & Treatments

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What Does Soft Palate Pain Mean?

The soft palate contains a few kinds of body tissues, including:

  • Blood vessels
  • Muscles
  • Ligaments
  • Fat

It is common for the soft palate to show signs of swelling and inflammation if the body has a viral, bacterial, or fungal infection. 

Since this area is linked to both the respiratory and gastrointestinal systems, it is essential to evaluate any symptoms to understand the cause of the swelling. 

8 Causes of Soft Palate Pain  

There are various causes of soft palate pain and inflammation, some more serious than others:

1. Oral Cancer

The most common type of soft palate cancer is squamous cell carcinoma. Early signs of oral cancer include:

  • Swelling
  • Lumps
  • Redness
  • Pain
  • Loss of function

Your oral healthcare provider is the ideal medical professional to address soft palate cancer concerns. You can request a screening during a routine teeth cleaning.

Treatment

 Oral cancer is treated similarly to other cancers. Treatment may include the following:

  • Surgery
  • Chemotherapy
  • Radiation
  • Lymph node removal
  • Reconstructive surgery

2. Injury or Trauma

An injury or trauma is one of the most common causes of soft palate pain. 

Some of the most common causes of injury or trauma include:

  • Eating hard foods that hit the roof of the mouth
  • Consuming an extremely hot food or drink 
  • A scratch from an edged or sharp piece of food

Treatment

Mouth injuries or trauma heal quickly because saliva creates a humid environment that is essential for the survival and functioning of the inflammatory cells involved in wound healing. The following can help speed up healing:

  • Proper mouth care
  • Topical medicine
  • Salt water rinses

3. Dehydration

Dehydration can make the roof of the mouth swell, resulting in a dry mouth.

Some common causes of dehydration include:

  • Excessive alcohol consumption
  • Some medications
  • Not drinking enough water
  • Excessive sweating, especially on hot days or while exercising
  • Illness
  • Extreme thirst
  • Fatigue 
  • Dizziness

Treatment

The best way to overcome dehydration is to drink plenty of fluids. You can also use an over-the-counter oral rehydration solution.

4. Mouth Sores

Mouth sores are caused by irritation in the lining of the mouth. They appear as red spots or blisters on the inside of your mouth. 

Mouth sores found inside the mouth are canker sores, and they're usually caused by:

  • Poor dental hygiene
  • Irritation from eating certain foods
  • Lack of certain nutrients
  • Mouth trauma

Cold sores are mouth sores caused by herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1). HSV-2 can also cause it.

Treatment 

Common treatment options for mouth sores include:

  • Mouth rinses
  • Corticosteroid ointments
  • Oral medications
  • Nutritional supplements
  • Cautery

5. Nicotine stomatitis

Smoking involves high temperatures and pressure, which can affect the mouth tissues.  This may lead to a white ‘cracked’ appearance with red dots on your palate. It can also irritate the small salivary glands on your mouth's roof.

This condition has many names, including nicotine stomatitis, tobacco stomatitis, or smoker's palate.

Some people may not know they have this condition. Routine dental or physical examination can help identify it.

Treatment

The only way to treat nicotine stomatitis is to stop smoking. Once you stop smoking, your symptoms should clear up within 1 to 2 weeks. Consult with your doctor if the symptoms persist.

6. Strep Throat

Strep throat is a bacterial infection of the back of the throat. The bacteria A Streptococcus (group A strep) can cause painful swelling in the throat and tonsils. 

Common symptoms of strep throat include:

  • Sore throat
  • Fever
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Pain when swallowing

Treatment

Strep throat is usually treated with a course of antibiotics. Your doctor may prescribe penicillin or amoxicillin to treat group A strep pharyngitis. 

7. Squamous papilloma

Squamous papilloma are benign tumors that can form on the palate. They're caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV). This condition is usually asymptomatic.

Treatment

In some cases, squamous papilloma can be left untreated. If you want to treat this condition, treatment options include:

  • Conventional surgical excision
  • Cryosurgery
  • Laser ablation

8. Denture Stomatitis

Denture stomatitis is caused by candida overgrowth due to poor dental hygiene. Wearing dentures for a prolonged time can also cause denture stomatitis. 

Symptoms of this condition include:

  • Pain or discomfort when swallowing
  • Redness and swelling in the mouth
  • White patches in the mouth

Treatment

Always remember to take out and clean your dentures every night. Never sleep in your dentures. 

If you’re diagnosed with denture stomatitis, your doctor may prescribe an antifungal or steroid cream. Laser therapy or surgery can help treat more severe cases. 

What is the Soft Palate?

The soft and hard palates make up the roof of the mouth. The soft palate is located behind the hard palate in the back of the mouth. It’s a fleshy part of the mouth that ends in the uvula.

The soft palate does not consist of any bone, and it’s made of muscle and tissue. When you swallow or suck, the soft palate separates the mouth from the throat. 

 Functions of the soft palate include:

  • Speech
  • Breathing
  • Swallowing

Home Remedies for Soft Palate Pain 

In most cases, you can treat soft palate pain at home. Home remedies for soft palate pain include:

Salt Water Rinse

To relieve soreness and inflammation, rinse your mouth out with saltwater. Mix one teaspoon of table salt into a glass of warm water. Swish around your mouth for 30 seconds, then spit it out.

OTC Medicine

OTC medication can provide relief from mild to moderate pain. Some OTC medications used to treat soft palate pain include ibuprofen and aspirin. Remember to carefully read and follow the label before taking any OTC medication.

Non-Alcoholic Fluid Intake

In the case of dehydration or electrolyte imbalance, the best treatment is to increase your liquid intake. It is advised to consume non-alcoholic drinks like water or herbal tea.

If your electrolytes are too low, you can drink a sports drink or juice to restore the balance.

Good Oral Care

Practicing good oral care can reduce the risk of developing soft palate pain. Good oral care includes brushing and flossing regularly.

Brushing twice daily will remove plaque and tartar buildup. Flossing once daily will remove debris between teeth and under the gum line.

In cases of an underlying condition, you should seek medical attention from a doctor.

When to See a Doctor for Soft Palate Pain 

Most causes of soft palate pain do not require medical care. However, you should meet with a doctor or general dentist in some circumstances.

Some reasons to see a doctor for soft palate pain include:

  • Pain that does not  subside with over-the-counter medications 
  • Unexplained swelling or swelling that persists for longer than a week
  • Swelling that comes with other symptoms 

In most circumstances, soft palate pain should not be a cause for concern. Usually, a person fully recovers within a few days to a week.

According to the ADA, “the 5-year relative survival rate for those with localized disease at diagnosis is 85%, compared with only a 40% survival rate in patients whose cancer has metastasized.”

Summary

There are several reasons for a painful, inflamed, or swollen soft palate. In most cases, you can treat soft palate pain at home without medical intervention.

Contact your dentist immediately if the pain doesn’t go away using home remedies. They can diagnose the problem and recommend treatment options.

Last updated on December 30, 2022
7 Sources Cited
Last updated on December 30, 2022
All NewMouth content is medically reviewed and fact-checked by a licensed dentist or orthodontist to ensure the information is factual, current, and relevant.

We have strict sourcing guidelines and only cite from current scientific research, such as scholarly articles, dentistry textbooks, government agencies, and medical journals. This also includes information provided by the American Dental Association (ADA), the American Association of Orthodontics (AAO), and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).
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  3. Cho, J.H., et al. “Surgical anatomy of human soft palate.” The Laryngoscope , 2013.
  4. Helwany, M., and Rathee, M.Anatomy, Head and Neck, Palate.” StatPearls Publishing, 2021.
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  7. “Cancer (Head and Neck).” American Dental Association.
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