Palatal Petechiae: Bruising on the Top of the Mouth

Your oral health includes your teeth, gums, and other body parts involved in your oral-facial system. Some common oral health concerns include canker sores, dry mouth, or cavities, but you may be less familiar with palatal petechiae.

Palatal petechiae can be lesions or bruising on the soft palate of a person's mouth. Read on to learn more about the condition.

Palatal Petechiae Symptoms

If you have palatal petechiae, the condition doesn't always look the same for every person. "It can range from physical bruising to petechiae—little burst blood vessels from suction," Mark Wolff, DDS, dean of the University of Pennsylvania School of Dental Medicine, told Health. Also, palatal petechiae occur on the soft palate.

What Is the Soft Palate?

The soft palate is the back top part of the mouth connected to the hard palate. Unlike the hard palate, the soft palate does not contain any bones—it's flexible and contains tissue and muscle fibers. The muscles of the soft palate help with breathing, swallowing, and talking.

Palatal petechiae likely won't come as a total surprise. According to Wolff, "soreness" near the back of the roof of your mouth can alert you to any bruising or lesions.

What Causes Palatal Petechiae?

The condition can show up for different reasons. Two possible causes include oral sex and the presence of illness.

Oral Sex

Palatal petechiae may occur if a person is sexually active and engages in oral sex. However, the condition doesn't usually come with symptoms.


Palatal petechiae can also be a sign of or occur with illnesses. For example, the mouth condition has been found in some cases of COVID-19, and strep throat may cause palatal petechiae.

It may also show up with mononucleosis (mono), a viral infection with symptoms such as fever and swollen lymph nodes in the neck. Researchers found that the probability of an individual having infectious mononucleosis rose with palatal petechiae presence.

The Epstein-Barr virus (EBV), which can cause mono, is not the only germ that can lead to palatal petechiae. Adenoviruses—which are responsible for pharyngitis (sore throat) and tonsillitis (inflammation of the tonsils)—and cytomegalovirus (CMV) have resulted in the condition.

How Is It Diagnosed and Treated?

Dentists can find palatal petechiae during an oral exam. Wolff said dentists see the lesions or bruising "periodically." Still, having the condition shouldn't stop you from attending routine dental appointments.

Also, palatal petechiae may not require treatment. "It heals like any other bruise. It could last for days to a week or so," said Wolff.

Living With Palatal Petechiae

Palatal petechiae don't last forever. Also, the appearance of palatal petechiae may not raise any concerns for dentists or other healthcare providers. However, that changes if the condition shows up in children: It is a possible sign of child abuse.


Child abuse and neglect refer to mistreating children and adolescents younger than 18 years old by people who have children in their care (e.g., parents, caregivers, coaches, or teachers). The mistreatment may occur as follows:

  • Emotional abuse: Destroying the way a child feels about themselves or feels in general
  • Neglect: Failing to provide a child's fundamental physical (e.g., food, education, medical care) or emotional needs
  • Physical abuse: Purposely causing physical harm to a child that results in bodily injuries
  • Sexual abuse: Pressuring or making a child participate in sexual actions

More than half of child abuse cases include head, neck, and face injuries. Oral injuries from child abuse or neglect might not always be visible. Still, they can show up in different ways (e.g., as burns, bruises, or teeth and bone fractures). Palatal petechiae or other unexplained palatal injuries in particular may be due to sexual abuse in the form of forced oral sex.

If healthcare providers—including dental health providers—suspect or know that a child has been abused, they must report it. Child protective services, law enforcement agencies, or both will use the report as part of the case's investigation.

Where To Seek Help

If you are a victim of child abuse or know someone who might be, call or text the Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-422-4453 to speak with a professional crisis counselor.

For more mental health resources, see our National Helpline Database.


A Quick Review

Palatal petechiae is bruising on the roof of your mouth. It can occur through oral sex or with the presence of an illness, but its appearance may be a sign of abuse in some cases.

Typically, palatal petechiae go away in under two weeks and shouldn't prevent you from seeing a dentist for routine dental care or a healthcare provider for treatment.

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