Bumps on your tongue whether harmless or painful or dangerous can be a source of mouth discomfort. Read our article on to get the various causes and treatment options.
Causes and signs of tongue bumps
What are the common causes of tongue bumps?
Injury or pain
Tongue pain usually occurs due to an injury or infection. If you bite your tongue, you may develop a sore that can last for days and be very painful. A minor infection on it isn’t uncommon, and it can cause pain and irritation.
The tongue papillae, or taste buds, are a small structure that tastes whatever is put in the mouth. When irritated or inflamed, they appear or actually swell up (see swollen taste buds) and may turn into forms of painful bumps. This may occur for instance, after an injury from a bite or irritation from hot foods.
Grinding or clenching the teeth can also irritate the sides of the tongue and cause it to become painful
Bumps, especially white ones, can develop after encountering an allergen. The common allergic reactions normally result from eating certain foods, some dental care products, and medication. The bumps are usually larger towards the back of the tongue.
Other than the white bumps, allergic reactions can result in other symptoms like a sore throat, nausea, vomiting, skin rash and runny nose among others
Oral fungal infection (thrush)
White bumps on the tongue can also result from oral thrush. This is a fungal infection that causes the affected tongue to develop bumps that are covered with a white or a yellow coating. Thrush is generally known to cause a yeast known as Candida.
There are various risk factors that trigger the outbreak of oral thrush.
Some of the factors include practicing poor oral hygiene, wearing dentures, dry mouth, smoking, taking antibiotics for a long time.
Syphilis is a sexually transmitted infection that is characterized by small painless bumps to develop on different parts of the mouth including the tongue and on the genitals.
It usually begins with a small, painless sore that’s easy to dismiss. The initial sore is followed by a rash. More sores come and go as the disease progresses.
When suffering from this infection you are also likely to develop white patches in the mouth and particularly on the tongue.
In the early stages, syphilis is easily treated with antibiotics. During the secondary stages, sores may appear in the mouth and on the tongue
Scarlet fever can result in “strawberry tongue condition” This condition leaves the tongue red, bumpy, and look swollen. This bacterial infection can also cause skin rash and fever. Scarlet fever is usually mild and can be treated with antibiotics. Rare complications include pneumonia, rheumatic fever, and kidney disease. Scarlet fever is very contagious so it should be taken seriously.
Smoking and excessive consumption of alcohol
Tobacco or weed smoke and alcohol contain harmful chemicals that cause irritation of the taste buds to form bumps. Food particles, dead cells, and other debris can get trapped in the swollen taste buds to make them appear as white bumps.
Oral cancer causes the appearance of white or red bumps in the mouth that does not go away.
Oral cancer normally affects the lips, tongue, cheeks, and floor of the mouth. It is characterized by various symptoms that include white bumps (lesions) and sore throat, hoarseness, difficulties in chewing and swallowing food, numbness, persistence soreness and loss of weight.
Tongue piercing can lead to the formation bumps if there is poor oral hygiene, infection or in response to an allergic reaction.
Different types of tongue piercings may include;
- Venom piercing
- Snake eye piercing
- Horizontal piercing
All the piercings above can lead to a white bump on tongue near the pierced site. This may be an indication that your piercing is infected.
Generally, piercing does not always cause bumps.
Worried about red or white bumps on your tongue?
The tongue is naturally covered with small bumps. These ones are called papillae. Bumps are simply small swellings that appear on the tongue. They can be lie pumps or canker sores.
Also known as transient lingual papillitis, lie bumps are little white or red bumps form when papillae become irritated and slightly swollen.
It’s not always clear why this happens, but it may be related to stress, hormones, or particular foods
This condition can be accompanied by fever and swollen glands. It is sometimes associated with a viral infection
Although they can be uncomfortable, lie bumps aren’t serious and usually clear up without treatment and within a few days. Lie bumps are most common among children and are likely contagious.
Canker sore bumps
Canker bump is non-contagious open and painful red sores that can occur anywhere in the mouth, including under the tongue. Canker sores usually get better after about 2 weeks. They heal on their own. Canker sores commonly appear when people are between 10 and 20 years of age.
Most of the bumps are harmless to your health while some can be symptomatic to serious body underlying conditions.
Symptoms of tongue problem bumps
Symptoms of that may be as a result of underlying tongue problem include the following:
- A partial or complete loss of taste or changes in your ability to taste sour, salty, bitter, or sweet flavors
- Difficulty moving it
- Tongue swelling
- A change from the normal color of your tongue or patches of color that are white, bright pink, black, or brown
- Tongue pain either all over it or only in certain spots
- A burning sensation either all over the tongue or only in certain spots
- White or red patches, which are often painful
- A furry or hairy appearance of the tongue
These discomforts may affect the daily normal functions of the tongue that includes speech, chewing, swallowing and testing deferent elements in food i.e. salty, sweet and sour. The tongue has normal tiny bumps known as papillae.
Inflammation of the tongue papillae
Inflammation can be caused by tongue infection, certain injuries or conditions like GERD.
If you notice that the bumps aren’t healing after two weeks, you have to see a doctor or a dentist.
If cancer is suspected, your doctor will probably take a tissue sample for examination under a microscope (biopsy)
The treatment facility, the doctor may examine you by asking you some questions like:
- How long you’ve had the symptoms
- Whether your ability to taste has changed
- What kind of pain you have
- If it’s difficult to move it
- If you have any other issues in your mouth
Home remedies and treatments
Even though red bumps on the back of your tongue are usually nothing to be concerned about, there are a few instances where you should seek treatment. For instance, if the bumps last more than two weeks and get bigger, it is advisable that you should see a doctor
Surgery and therapies
Surgery and chemotherapy are recommended as a treatment measure of bumps by a qualified doctor. This helps to remove an unnecessary growth on the tongue.
Use of antibiotics
If the bumps on the tongue are as a result of syphilis, use of antibiotics at the initial stages of infection may help to cure and hence the healing of the bumps. Doctors may also advise you to refrain from sexual activities until you heal.
Practice good oral hygiene
To focus more on cleaning the tongue, it is advisable that you quit alcohol and cigarette smoking. This helps reduce the chances (risk factor) to develop a cancer of the mouth. It may also reduce treatment period if cancer has not developed to the distant organs.
- Rinse your mouth with a warm salt water
- Rinse several times a day and maintain proper oral hygiene to make your mouth an ideal environment for faster healing
- Flossing should be considered – in this case, see your dental doctor for advice
- Do not overuse mouthwashes (esp. antibacterial mouthwash)
It is also recommended that you should use toothpaste made with the potentially non-allergic ingredients.
Avoiding irritating substances like very hot foods, spicy foods, salty foods or very sugary foods can also help to prevent bumps on the tongue. Consuming cold and soft foods and drinks reduces the inflammation and other discomforts that come with them. Drinking ice cold water or drinks help to numb the tongue temporarily.
Soft foods prevent further damage to your tongue. Stick to soothing foods like ice cream, yogurt, milk and other soft drinks
Gargle with saline
Saltwater contains antibacterial properties that will help to kill germ and other micro-organisms that cause bumps on your mouth. It also helps to relieve any swelling and inflammations that may be present with the bumps.
Chewing mint or its leaves helps to heal tongue burns. Mint contains anti-inflammatory properties or substances that guard the tongue against infections
Applying some ice chips to the affected area
Ice chips help to melt off the surface of your tongue may help to provide an additional pain relief from the bumps. It aids in numbing the affected areas temporarily as well as reducing any swelling that may be present. Avoid sucking on the ice as it may cause damage to the bumps.
Using over the counter products
In case you have bumps on the tongue, you can try various over the counter antiseptic products that can help to get rid of the bumps fast. Covering the bumps with Oral base or Zilactin prevents irritations and speeds up the healing process without exposing them to infection.
There are also various antiseptic and an aesthetic mouthwash containing benzamidine or chlorhexidine that you can use without doctor’s prescription. These products help to eliminate yeast or bacterial infection.
When should I see a dentist
Worrying symptoms can lead to fear and occasional panic. These include:
- When you have a persistently hoarse voice
- Feeling something is stuck at the back of the throat
- Bleeding whether there is pain or not
- Pain during swallowing food
- Difficulty swallowing
- Swollen throat
- Weight loss without cause or that you cannot track
- Excessive swelling of the tongue