Amazing Facts about Those Bumps on the Back of Your Tongue

By Amanda Lawrence |
|5 min read

As you go about your morning routine and gaze into the mirror, you probably notice that your tongue is covered in numerous uneven bumps that give it its texture. These bumps on your tongue are known as papillae. There are times, however, when these papillae take on a different appearance and you have larger than usual bumps towards the back of the tongue.

What Exactly Are These Bumps on Back of Tongue?

Not all bulges on the surface of the tongue are the same. Due to the fact that they have different roles or causes, the appearance and nature of the bumps vary too.

1. Natural bumps

Some of the bumps occur naturally and no alarm needs to be raised when you see them. The fungiform papillae congregate more towards the front of the tongue whereas the circumvallate papillae are towards the back. In some individuals, these bumps on the back of the tongue are naturally large though they can also be enlarged due to inflammation. If you open your mouth wider and peer towards to the back end of your tongue, you will see a few other larger bumps as well. These bigger ones are just lingual tonsils.

2. Lie bumps

These bumps usually occur at the front of the tongue, often stemming from the sensitive nature of the tongue. The cause of these enlarged papillae can be stress, problems in the digestive tract or even hormones and external influences like a large array of environmental factors.

These bumps, however, clear up within a fortnight or so. If you cannot wait that long, rinse your mouth regularly with a solution of salt in water. You can also soothe the tongue with cold beverages or ice.

3. Glossitis

At the other end of the scale, your tongue does not exhibit bumps but appears smooth. This is a condition that is known as glossitis. In this situation, the tongue swells up and the rough texture formed by the papillae disappears. Glossitis can be a product of allergic reactions to various things including food and medications. On the other hand, diseases like herpes simplex can cause the appearance of glossitis.

A medical professional should write you a prescription for antibiotics which can rid the mouth of infections that are causing the glossitis. Corticosteroids are also good if the cause is an allergic reaction; they help reduce the swelling of the tongue and relieve the condition.

4. Trauma

Bumps on your tongue are sometimes due to the simple reason that the tongue has experienced some form of physical injury. When your tongue gets injured or is constantly irritated, it heals and develops bumps. These usually heal on their own or we can speed up the process by gurgling saltwater.

The tongue can also experience constant trauma, like that seen in people who constantly chew their tongues when concentrating on something. The resulting product is known as a traumatic fibroma which can be removed only surgically.

5. Canker sores

Canker sores are painful swellings that occur on the tongue as well as anywhere within the oral cavity. That means that these light colored sores with a red outline can also be found under the tongue, inside the cheeks, lips, etc.

These sores usually heal even when untreated. Due to the discomfort, they cause, however, many people seek some intervention, medical or homeopathic. Canker sores can be treated by gargling a baking soda solution. To medically treat canker sores, you should get an antibiotics prescription from your physician. There are also ointments and balms that can be applied on the tongue to soothe the pain. Before applying these treatment methods and remedies, you should always consult your physician to ensure that what you are doing is the right thing.

What Causes the Papillae to Get Enlarged?

There is no common singular cause for these bumps on the tongue – known as enlarged papillae – and, therefore, they can be treated differently to offer relief.

1. Smoking

Cigarette smoke contains harmful chemicals that irritate different parts of the body, but especially the route to the lungs. The tongue is no exception; cigarette smoke irritates its surface, making the papillae sore and swollen. When you have already enlarged papillae, cigarette smoke will worsen the condition. This habit is a hard one to overcome due to nicotine addiction. You can start by using nicotine patches or chewing gum to eliminate the inhalation of the irritating smoke.

2. Stress

Stress has been implicated in a large number of non-contagious diseases and conditions. Enlarged papillae are not an exception. Like with every other condition in which stress plays a role, it aggravates the situation due to its negative effects. You should indulge in relaxation techniques or take up sports so that you can eliminate stress from your life and improve your overall health.

3. Oral cancer

Bumps on the back of your tongue – or anywhere else in the mouth for that matter – might point to a larger problem. Enlarged papillae might be a sign of oral cancer and should, therefore be taken very seriously. This is especially true if the condition does not improve in a few days or weeks. In such a situation, you need to check in with your doctor for a thorough examination.

4. Infection

The mouth is an ideal place for bacteria and other microorganisms to take shelter and proliferate. Bacteria and yeasts can multiply which results into bumps on your tongue. Viruses like human papillomavirus (HPV) also causes singular bumps on the tongue. The former can be easily treated with antibiotics prescribed by a medical professional. HPV, on the other hand, is incurable and the bump needs to be taken out surgically, usually with a laser.

In a Nutshell

There are different kinds of bumps that can appear on your tongue and some can be very uncomfortable. Though they have different causes, they can be avoided altogether by practicing good oral hygiene. You should brush your teeth at least twice a day, taking extra care to brush the tongue too. In fact, investing in a tongue scraper is a good idea. The scraper cleans your papillae more effectively than a brush.

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