Benign Neoplasms of the Oral Cavity: Papillomas and Fibromas

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Benign neoplasms of the oral cavity are localized non-malignant growths that occur in the oral cavity or oropharynx. In medical terms, they are non-cancerous tumors. Benign tumors of the mouth or tongue usually present themselves and grow very slowly over a period of two to six years. They can emerge on the lips, gums, palate, floor of the mouth or tongue. The benign neoplasms can be characterized by being very similar to the tissue from which they originate, being encapsulated and growing slowly.

These types of neoplasms are usually not life-threatening. However, depending on the size and progress they can produce extensive oral tissue and bone losses. If untreated these tumors can also cause deformities of the mouth and face.

Common Benign Neoplasms

There are many types of oral cavity growths. The most important issue with these is the correct classification as benign as opposed to malignant. This can be done by histological analysis made from tissue taken from the neoplasm and surrounding area.

The classification of the neoplasms is based on histological criteria on the origin of the tissue in which there is an abnormal growth. Thus, they can be grouped in the following categories: epithelial tumors, connective tissue tumors and tumors originating from muscles.


Papilloma is the most common benign epithelial tumor of the oral mucosa. It can occur at any age with no difference between sexes. The squamous papilloma lesion appears as rough, cauliflower-like and usually no larger than a centimeter. Its color ranges from white to gray. They normally appear on the tongue and palate but can grow at any other location.


Fibroma is one of the most frequent connective tissue tumors that grow in the oral cavity. It is a nodular neoplasm (average diameter 1 cm) consisting of a central mass of connective tissue. It has a well circumscribed pedunculated base. These fibroids usually grow very slowly. They may be from soft to hard depending on the amount of collagen fibers. They usually emerge in the cheeks, tongue, palate and gums.

Care and Treatment

If correctly identified as benign neoplasms, oral cavity growths represent no threat to life. However, close observation should be exercised by professional medical personel to avoid development of malignancies (cancer) and to avoid tissue and/or bone damage. Usually a biopsy is performed on suspected neoplasms for confirmation as benign. If the size is small it can be followed periodically to assess if surgical removal is needed. Depending on size, location and degree of development, benign neoplasms may need to be removed surgically from the oral cavity.


LEWIS R. EVERSOLE, DDS, MSD Benign neoplasms of the oral cavity. In Diagnosis and Management of Oral and Salivary Gland Diseases.Pages 137-193

Margotta V, Capogreco M. 2003. Soft tissue pathologies of the oral cavity. Minerva Stomatol;52(1-2): 47-51.