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Bumps on the Back of Your Tongue – What Are They?

Excerpt: Everyone has bumps on their tongue, these bumps are known as papillae...
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What Are The Bumps On The Back Of My Tongue?

Everyone has bumps on their tongue, these bumps are known as papillae (sometimes you can get bumps on your tongue that are not papillae). Papillae do a number of things, mainly they are responsible for your sense of taste, and touch. Most of the time papillae should not be visually concerning regardless of size or color, however, sometimes they may show various symptoms. Swelling is a symptom that can make papillae more noticeable. Swollen papillae are generally a temporary condition but it can make eating, talking, and tasting difficult, sometimes even painful.

There are four different types of papillae:

  • Filiform papillae – These bumps are responsible for your sense of touch. They are small, cone-shaped, and they cover about two-thirds of your tongue.
  • Foliate papillae – These are vertical folds on the sides at the back of your tongue, these contain numerous taste buds.
  • Fungiform papillae – Mainly responsible for your sense of taste, these bumps are club-shaped and cover the sides of your tongue.
  • Circumvallate papillae – These bumps are large, dome-shaped, and are located at the back of your tongue.
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Diagnosing tongue bumps

If you are experiencing any of the following symptoms, it is important to seek medical attention: pain, difficulty swallowing or breathing, an inflammation of the tongue surface (i.e. swelling), and a redness or papillae on the tongue surface. Once your diagnosis has been made, treatment typically involves application of an ointment or cream to the bump and reducing friction with a spoon or ice pack. If this doesn’t relieve the discomfort, oral antibiotics may also be prescribed in order to fight against infection.

9 Causes For Irregular Bumps On Your Tongue

If the bumps on your tongue appear different than normal, it could be for a number of reasons.


The most common way to injure your tongue is by biting it. This can happen to anyone and is a common cause of tongue injuries. If you do bite your tongue, it may become swollen, you will want to be careful if it does swell up since that can make it more likely for you to bite it again. Most superficial oral health injuries heal pretty fast so they should go away in a couple of days or less, however, if it appears to be lasting longer than usual, you should make a dentist appointment.

Foods And Beverages

If you consume something that is too hot it can very easily burn your mouth and your tongue. If it is not a significant burn it will heal and go away fairly quickly, during the healing process, you may temporarily notice a difference in taste as the bumps heal. A very bad burn is definitely worth an appointment. You can also irritate your tongue by eating sour, sweet, or acidic foods. If you notice symptoms after eating certain foods it may be a good choice to cut back on them.

Bacterial Infections

There are naturally-occurring bacteria in your mouth that normally do not cause any issues. However, under certain conditions, the bacteria can infect your tongue which will cause it damage. If you do experience unexplained swelling, discomfort, or any pain in your tongue, you should immediately make a dentist appointment.

Canker Sores

If you notice bumps on your tongue, you could be experiencing canker sores. Canker sores can appear for a wide variety of reasons. Most of the time these sores will be benign (harmless), but they also generally tend to resolve on their own after a short period of time. 

Oral Thrush (Oral candidiasis)

Oral thrush is a yeast infection that can appear in your mouth and can be characterized by bumps on your tongue. You may also experience a dry mouth when you have oral thrush. A dentist can treat this condition through the use of medication.

Tuberculosis (TB)

Tuberculosis (TB) is a bacterial infection of the lungs, one symptom of this is the sudden appearance of sores, anywhere on the body, including the tongue. 

Lie Bumps

Lie bumps are temporary inflammations on the tongue’s papillae. These bumps may make the tongue more sensitive and may cause you to feel a burning sensation. Generally, lie bumps will resolve on their own and go away without any treatment required, even though they may cause you discomfort while they are present. 


In some rare cases, a bump on your tongue may be a symptom of cancer. A canker sore will most likely not resolve on its own. If you do notice a sore that does not seem to away after 3 or 4 weeks, this could be a potential cause. Making a dentist appointment will be critical to properly diagnose the bump or sore on the back of your tongue.   


Certain allergies can cause swelling in different areas of your mouth. If you notice a reaction in the tongue, it can potentially be a critical and possibly fatal condition. Tongue swelling can cause lots of discomforts, pain, and breathing problems, and it will be difficult to consume food or beverages. Tongue swelling is an emergency situation and you should immediately make an emergency appointment, or you can even call 911. 

Treatments for tongue bumps

Treatment of tongue bumps can vary depending on the cause. Oral tablets or ointments, oral rinses and mouthwashes may help to remove debris or bacteria that can contribute to the development of tongue bumps. If the bump doesn’t go away after using these treatments, see a doctor for further evaluation.

Other Symptoms Of Tongue Bumps

Some symptoms can show up as:
  • Pain in the mouth or tongue when eating or swallowing.
  • Cotton-mouth.
  • White patches on the insides of the cheeks, the tongue, or the back of the throat.
  • Bleeding from the bumps.
  • Lump or swelling in the neck.
  • Fever.
  • Sickly feeling (malaise).
  • Trouble speaking or moving the tongue.
  • Change or loss in taste sensation.

When Should You Make A Dentist Appointment?

If you experience any of the following, you should consider making a dentist appointment:
  • Symptoms lasting longer than one week.
  • Rapidly growing, spreading, or bleeding bumps.
  • Bumps keep returning after healing.
  • Inability to eat or drink.

How To Prevent Irregular Bumps On Your Tongue

Sometimes they may be unpreventable, regardless of what you do. However, here are some ways you can help reduce the chances of them appearing.
  • Brush teeth at least twice a day.
  • Use a stainless steel tongue scraper to remove bacteria from the tongue.
  • Floss at least once a day.
  • Regular visits to the dentist (twice a year is recommended).
  • Avoid acidic foods that irritate the tongue.
  • Limit alcohol use.
  • Avoid sugary foods that increase the chances of tooth decay.
  • Rinse the mouth thoroughly after using medications such as steroids or inhalers.
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