What are the common causes of bumps on the back of your tongue? Are they brought on by strep throat, STDs, a sore throat or even cancer? Get all the insight on the symptoms, causes and treatment in this article. We’ll also share photos of big, white and red spots on your tongue.
Bumps on the tongue are not unusual, but you do need to assess their cause if you have them. Large white or red bumps that form on the sides, under or at the back of your tongue may require a consultation with a medical professional, to understand the cause and the proper treatment.
Causes of Bumps on the Back of Tongue
Here are reasons for white dots or red spots on the sides or back of your tongue, or under the tongue.
- Lie Bumps
These are small red or white bumps that form on your tongue if the papillae become inflamed or irritated. They are usually brought on by allergic reactions, hormones, trauma and stress. They are not generally serious.
- Natural Bumps
Did you know that the strongest muscle found in your body is your tongue? It contains small sized nodules known as papillae. This is where the taste buds are found, and they usually look like small bumps.
- Allergic Reactions
When your tongue comes in contact with certain substances, you may have an allergic reaction to them. This sometimes causes bumps to form on the tongue. Some common irritants are foods, prescriptions and OTC drugs.
- Tension & Trauma
Accidentally scalding or biting your tongue may traumatize it, causing bumps to form, particularly at the tip. The main causes of tension & trauma include menstruation, acidic or sour foods, stomach upset, physical injury, smoking and stress.
- Kawasaki Syndrome
This is common in children, affecting the blood supply and leaving the tongue with a red or brown color. It can be associated with other signs, like redness of feet, swelling of hands and high fever. You should call your pediatrician if you think your child has this disorder.
- Canker Sores
These sores can cause bumps on the tongue and in the mouth. They aren’t contagious, and are accompanied by painful red or white bumps. The actual cause is unknown, and usually, symptoms disappear in a few days, with no treatment needed.
- Oral Thrush (also known as Candidiasis)
This infection in your mouth is caused by Candida yeasts. It isn’t contagious and responds well to anti-fungal type medications. It is seen more often in infants, but adults can get it, too.
- Causes of Oral Thrush
The mouth always has some Candida fungus in it, as does the digestive tract. They don’t cause problems unless they multiply. This may be caused by:
Poor oral hygiene
Long-period antibiotic use, or high doses of antibiotics
Use of inhaled medications for asthma, like corticosteroids
Radiation therapy or chemotherapy for cancer treatment
Poor fitting dentures
Dry mouth from medications or conditions
Medical problems like underactive thyroid, HIV, vitamin B12 deficiency, iron deficiency and diabetes
- Oral Thrush Symptoms
White patches in mouth
White, creamy lesions on inner cheeks or tongue
White spots inside cheeks or on tonsils or tongue
Red spots on tongue
Burning, painful irritation in mouth
Big red or white bumps on back of tongue
Bad taste in mouth
Loss of appetite
Cracks at corners of the mouth
Difficulties in drinking, eating & swallowing, particularly with infants
Treatment for Oral Thrush
Oral thrush is often treated successfully with antifungal tablets, gels or capsules. Possible side effects of these drugs include bloating, abdominal pain, vomiting, diarrhea and nausea.
Preventing Oral Thrush
This condition can often be prevented if you follow these guidelines:
- Use fluoride toothpaste two times or more each day
- Rinse your mouth after you eat meals or snacks
- Visit your dentist for checkups and denture fitting checks
- Clean your tongue and gums by using a soft brush two times or more per day
- Rinse your mouth well with water after using an inhaler
- Remove your dentures and clean them every night. Use paste or soap and water for cleaning, then place them in your overnight container with denture cleaning tablets and water.
- Get proper treatments for medical conditions that may cause oral thrush
This condition causes a growth of cells in your mouth that is excessive. This leads to white patching forming not only on your tongue, but also on the roof of the mouth, inside cheeks or gums. This condition cannot be tested for, but medical experts report the main factors as including:
- Regular alcohol consumption
- Heavy smoking of tobacco
- Persistent infections from Candida fungus
- Vitamin A, B or other vitamin deficiencies
- Misaligned teeth or poorly fit dentures that cause cheek and tongue biting
- Overexposure to sun on the lips
- Conditions like oral lichen planus or oral thrush
- HIV, AIDS or oral cancer
The Epstein-Barr virus is usually the cause of hairy leukoplakia.
Patches and spots in your mouth, or bumps on back of tongue are the main signs of this disease. A physician or dentist should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment.
This medical condition does not cause any permanent damage to mouth tissues, but it can lead easily to more serious tongue and mouth diseases, including oral cancer. A biopsy will rule out oral cancer, and allow your dental professional to diagnose any other possible conditions, and recommend treatment. For a biopsy, a small piece of mouth tissue will be removed from the red lesion, and then examined.
Getting Rid of Leukoplakia
Here are the best methods used to get rid of leukoplakia:
- Have the lesion removed surgically
- Discontinue use of alcohol
- Avoid chewing tobacco
- Avoid smoking tobacco
- Add fresh vegetables and fruits to your diet
Syphilis is transmitted sexually, so it is an STD. In the early stages, you may see small sores. They are painless, but will evolve into a very severe rash. As the disease progresses, bumps and sores form on the tongue. This condition can be life-threatening if it isn’t treated properly using strong antibiotics.
Bumps found on the back of your tongue with soreness and pain can be symptomatic of oral cancer. They are generally white or red and will often bleed. If you have this disease, you will have difficulty in chewing or swallowing, because of pain.
Burning mouth syndrome and mouth ulcers are also signs of oral cancer. Your tongue may burn. Menopause and stress may also cause these symptoms though, so seek professional medical help to obtain a proper diagnosis.
Home Remedies & DIY Treatments for Bumps on Back of the Tongue
Here are some treatments & remedies for clearing up bumps in the mouth:
- Take antihistamines to minimize tension and trauma
- Apply antiseptic solution or sea salt solution to bumps with a cotton ball
- Gargle with medicated mouthwash three times a day
- Take pain killers for relief
- Apply ice to lessen inflammation
- Apply Milk of Magnesia® on cotton balls to the bumps
- Drink lots of water
- Minimize smoking
- Reduce chewing tobacco use
- Apply hydrogen peroxide and water to spots three times a day or more
- Avoid fatty and spicy foods
- Visit your dentist regularly
Red Bumps on Tongue
Natural tongue bumps are generally pink. Red spots or bumps can be symptomatic of infection. Have the bumps examined by a medical professional so that they can be diagnosed and treated.
Main causes of red bumps on the tongue include:
- Geographic tongue – this condition causes red tongue patches with white borders.
- Vitamin deficiency – insufficient intake of folic acid and vitamin B-12.
- Scarlet fever – This condition causes “strawberry tongue”, with red bumps. Seek medical attention right away if you notice these.
White Bumps on Back of Tongue
Common causes of white tongue bumps include:
- Smoking – This can cause painful white bumps on your tongue.
- Trauma – Accidentally hurting your tongue may cause it to become painful.
- Canker sores – These mouth ulcers occur with no apparent reason, but may be associated with stress.
- Enlarged papillae – This condition causes irritated, inflamed or swollen taste buds. It is usually caused by smoking or other irritants.
- Anemia, diabetes and HIV – These can cause painful white bumps.
- Oral cancer – This rare condition causes painful bumps and sores. It probably isn’t the reason for your bumps on the tongue, but it’s better to have it ruled out.
Getting Rid of Bumps on the Tongue
Most white spots on the tongue heal by themselves without any treatment. Others do require some type of medical treatment. It depends on the cause. The remedies below will work to speed healing and mitigate your discomfort.
- Maintain proper oral hygiene
Use a toothbrush with soft bristles to clean your tongue and teeth after eating snacks or meals. Floss your teeth on a regular basis. A tongue scraper will help remove any debris that could otherwise accumulate on your tongue.
- Gargle with salt water
Salt water is an antibacterial solution, which kills germs. It relieves inflammation and swelling, too.
- Avoid products and foods that irritate your mouth
Avoid acidic drinks and foods that contain soda, coffee, citrus fruit and tomatoes. Don’t eat spices like cinnamon, pepper or chili powder.
- Rinse your mouth with quality mouthwash twice a day or more
Mouthwash helps in killing bacteria. Don’t use a mouthwash that is made with alcohol, as this could irritate the bumps.
- Apply ice chips to the tongue
Ice chips melting on your tongue will give you relief from pain and numb the areas affected. It helps to reduce swelling, too, and keeps your mouth moist. To use the ice chips most effectively, place the ice chips on your tongue and allow them to melt. Do not suck on the ice – just leave it laid on your tongue – as sucking can damage tongue bumps or cause them to become more painful.
- Eat and drink soft, cold foods and beverages
When you consume cold drinks and foods, it helps in reducing inflammation, and some of the other discomfort that occurs when you have bumps on the back of your tongue, or on the top, side or tip of the tongue.
Drinking ice water numbs your tongue temporarily, which makes your mouth more comfortable. Eating soft foods will prevent any further damage you might otherwise cause to your tongue or mouth.
The best foods and drinks to use include milk, yogurt, ice cream (as long as you’re not lactose-intolerant) and other drinks and foods that provide a sense of coldness for your mouth. Stay away from hard foods, including crispy food, chips and other crispy snacks. Avoid hot drinks and hot foods, especially if they are spicy.
- Don’t eat food or use oral care products that cause allergic reactions.
Wheat, shellfish and eggs may cause allergic reactions in your mouth, and make the pain and swelling worse. Avoid consuming alcohol and stop smoking if you can, as you’re resolving your tongue issues.
- Use products available over-the-counter (OTC).
You will find various antiseptic products that are available over the counter. They can help in getting rid of bumps on the tongue and in the mouth. Cover the bumps with products like Zilactin, to prevent irritation and speed up your healing. These products protect the tongue and mouth from additional bacteria, as well.
Antiseptic mouthwashes with chlorhexidine or benzydamine can be purchased without a prescription from your physician or dentist. They aid in pain relief and prevent further bacterial infections. Check the instructions and only use these products as recommended by the companies that make them.
- Consult your physician or dentist.
Tongue bumps caused by serious conditions may not improve or disappear with the remedies we’ve described above. If you are not having any luck in healing your bumps or sores, call your dentist or GP to have your underlying problem diagnosed.
In this way, the proper treatment may be prescribed, so that your mouth can heal. They will determine whether your bumps are related to bacterial, fungal or viral infection, and help you treat them properly.
Check out this VIDEO about bumps on the back of the tongue.