Bumps on the tongue are a common complaint. Bumps on the tongue have several causes. The tongue consists mainly of muscles and is covered with taste buds, which allow you to taste. The tongue is the most flexible organ in your body and it has a versatile function. The tongue assists in chewing, kneading, and swallowing food. The tongue is also important when cleaning your teeth.
The tongue also makes speaking possible. Tongue problems can be very annoying. Some conditions are accompanied by bumps on the tongue. Bumps on the tongue can be harmless and disappear within a short time, but they can also indicate an underlying condition, such as bite fibroma, canker sores, an STD, and (rarely) tongue cancer. In case of persistent complaints of a (white) ball or bump on the tongue,
Causes a bump on the tongue
There are many factors that can cause you to get one or more bumps on your tongue. We will review the two main causes of a bump on the tongue below: bite fibroma and canker sores. We also discuss the much rarer condition of tongue cancer.
A bite fibroma is a benign growth, which consists of connective tissue. Preferred locations are the cheeks, the side of the tongue, or the tip of the tongue. A bite fibroma looks like a bump. The size of the fibroid can vary. It rarely grows larger than an inch and a half. A bite fibroma is caused by inflammation, ulceration (sore formation), or mechanical irritation as a result of regularly biting the cheek. There are also other triggering factors, such as:
- chronic gingivitis ( gum disease );
- gum disease;
- dental fillings;
- ill-fitting dentures;
- poor oral hygiene; and
- smoking (for example, heavy smokers are more likely to suffer from soreness in the tongue . Cigarette smoke irritates the tongue and the mucous membranes of the mouth).
The bite fibroma is generally harmless. After surgical removal, the bite fibroma is unlikely to come back. However, it is advisable to avoid or adjust the triggering or causative factor.
Bumps on the tongue due to canker sores
Lumps or bumps on the tongue are often caused by canker sores. Canker sores are painful, solitary or multiple sores of the oral mucosa, often appearing for the first time around puberty and tending to recur. These annoying ulcerations of the oral mucosa occur in roughly 20% of the population. Canker sores on the tongue occur mainly on the front and much less often on the back half or in the back. Most people only occasionally suffer from one or more small painful sores, which disappear after 1 to 2 weeks. However, there are also people with recurrent, large, and very painful mouth ulcers.
Several factors play a role in the development of canker sores. Triggering factors are:
- Damage to the oral mucosa (microtrauma in the mouth) by sharp and hard pieces in the food or by brushing your teeth, poorly closing teeth, etc.
- Smoking also leads to irritation and damage to the oral mucosa. Nevertheless, canker sores (especially large ones) seem to be slightly less common in smokers.
- Persistent emotional stress can also trigger canker sores.
- Hereditary factors may play a role.
Diseases that can cause (especially large) canker sores are:
- Behçet ‘s disease (a chronic condition with recurrent inflammation, which appears in the form of mouth ulcers, among other things);
- blood diseases (due to lack of iron, vitamin B12, or folic acid ); and
- intestinal diseases such as celiac disease (hypersensitivity to gluten), Crohn’s disease, and ulcerative colitis.
Spontaneous recovery from a canker sore
Normally canker sores heal spontaneously within fourteen days. You can prevent irritation by avoiding irritating substances (spices, acid). Treatment of topically applied steroids can shorten the duration of the disease. Chlorhexidine-containing mouthwashes have a modest beneficial effect.
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The complaints are shortened by one day and the pain is somewhat less. There are also gels against canker sores. It lays a thin, protective layer over the affected area, reducing the pain caused by the canker sore and speeding up the healing process.
Tongue cancer is often caused by alcohol and tobacco use, but poor oral hygiene can also play an important role. The symptoms of tongue cancer include:
- a red or white spot on the tongue that does not go away;
- a sore throat that won’t go away;
- a sore on the tongue that does not go away;
- pain when swallowing ;
- numbness in the mouth that does not go away;
- unexplained bleeding from the tongue (which is not caused by biting your tongue or another injury);
- pain in the ear (rare).
Consult your doctor if you suspect tongue cancer.
White bumps due to transient lingual papillitis
Red and white papillae on the tongue
About half of us experience lingual papillitis at some point. This is characterized by painful, inflamed, and swollen red and white papillae on the tongue. It is not known in 2022 why this happens, but it may be related to stress, hormones, or certain foods. There may also be a link to herpes ( cold sores ). Although the bumps on the tongue can be annoying, they are harmless and usually go away without treatment within a few days. However, the tongue bumps can return.
Eruptive lingual papillitis
Eruptive lingual papillitis is most common in children and is likely to be contagious. It may be accompanied by fever and swollen glands. It is sometimes associated with a viral infection. It generally requires no treatment and goes away within two weeks, but it can return. Rinsing with salt water or cold, soft foods may provide some relief.
Oral squamous papilloma
Papillomas can be present anywhere, not only on the skin (squamous cell papilloma of the skin) but also in the oral cavity (oral squamous papilloma). They are mainly seen in a lowered immune system. These are soft, spherical, or pedunculated skin-colored or white tumors with a clear warty appearance. Most papillomas are caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV).
Syphilis is a sexually transmitted disease ( STD ). It usually starts with a small, painless sore that is not easy to miss. This is followed by a rash. More sores come and go as the disease progresses. In the early stages, syphilis is easily treated with antibiotics. During the secondary stages, sores can appear in the mouth and on the tongue. These sores can lead to serious complications and even death if left untreated.
Scarlet fever can result in a so-called ‘strawberry tongue, where the tongue is red, bumpy, and swollen. This bacterial infection can also cause a 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 highly contagious, so it should be taken seriously.
Glossitis or tongue inflammation
Glossitis is when inflammation gives your tongue a slippery appearance. Your tongue may also hurt and be sensitive. Tongue inflammation can be due to a variety of causes, including an allergic reaction, smoking, other irritants, or an infection. Treatment depends on the cause. If glossitis persists or recurs, see your doctor.
Bump in the mouth due to a mucous crust
A mucocele is a mucous cyst or salivary gland cyst and is usually seen on the lower lip, but can occur basically anywhere in the oral cavity where salivary glands are present. It looks like a spherical painless bump.
Bumps on the tongue from smoking
Excessive smoking irritates the tongue and can cause bumps on the tongue.
When contact with an allergen, bumps may appear on the tongue as an allergic reaction.
Anemia may be accompanied by bumps on the tongue. Anemia can arise, among other things, because too little blood is produced, such as in the case of a shortage of iron in the diet or a disturbed function of the blood-forming organs. As a result of iron deficiency, other abnormalities can also occur in the skin and mucous membranes:
- a sore tongue
- cracks at the corners of the mouth
- swallowing complaints
- crumbly, brittle nails
Burning tongue syndrome
This syndrome occurs during menopause and is characterized by a burning sensation in the tongue. With tongue burn, you suffer from a painful, burning sensation in the tongue, while no abnormalities can be seen on the tongue.
Fungus in the mouth
Oral thrush is a fungal infection that occurs in the mouth. It can cause symptoms such as bumps in the mouth. You can often see it on the front of the tongue and it can also feel burned and show cracks.
Red bumps due to sinus infection
As a result of a sinus infection or a cold, irritation of the taste buds at the back of the tongue may occur, which causes a red discoloration of these papillae.
Oral lichen planus
Lichen planus is an inflammatory reaction of the skin and mucous membranes and lichen planus on the oral mucosa can be accompanied by painful blisters, sores, and sores. In the mouth, lichen planus mainly affects the mucous membrane of the cheek and, to a lesser extent, also that of the lips and tongue. The gums are often spared.
Bumps on the tongue due to nutritional deficiencies
A deficiency of certain vitamins ( vitamin deficiency ) can lead to bumps on the tongue.
The following self-care measures can help with bumps on the tongue.
Gargle with warm salt water
Rinsing your mouth with salt water is something you can do every day. It acts as an anti-inflammatory agent and can relieve pain from bumps on the tongue. You put two teaspoons of salt or baking soda in half a glass of water. You rinse your mouth with it and gargle. Then spit it out.
Chew mint leaves
Mint leaves are known for their anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties. Chew them every night before bed and the bumps on the tongue will heal faster. You can also try tea by soaking mint leaves in a cup of hot water for five minutes.
Eat foods that are cold and soft
Eating soft or cold foods can help ease the discomfort. Cold foods temporarily numb the tongue, while soft foods do not further irritate the bumps. Avoid hot snacks, French fries, and salty crackers as the salt and rough texture can lead to more bumps and irritation.
Avoid provoking foods
Avoid foods that can trigger or exacerbate the bumps on the tongue or associated burning sensation. Think of sweetened, spicy, sour, salty, or fried dishes. If you have a food allergy, avoid the food or food ingredients you are allergic to.
Observe good oral hygiene
By maintaining good oral health, you can get rid of the bumps faster. Brush your teeth at least twice a day and floss once a day. Use a tongue brush or tongue scraper, then rinse your mouth with baking soda to reduce inflammation. Using an alcohol mouthwash will make the burning sensation on your tongue worse, even though it may help kill bacteria.
Regular dental check-ups
Go for a check-up with the dentist twice a year. The dentist can identify problems at an early stage.