Food helps to keep you alive. It can make you happy by satisfying your taste buds’ cravings. But what would happen if you couldn’t taste every food you eat? It would be a let-down, and a waste, since you couldn’t appreciate the taste.
What makes you enjoy the foods you eat?
The answer is the taste buds found on your tongue.
Where are the taste buds of the tongue located?
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There are various types of taste. The primary tastes are bitter, sour, salty, sweet and umami, which is described as a savory, pleasant taste. Other tastes include combinations of the tastes just listed.
Salty and sweet flavors are sensed by the area at the tip of your tongue. The sides taste sourness and the back of your tongue ascertains bitter taste.
A taste bud
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When you eat, the food is mixed with saliva, aiding in chewing. Your teeth grind food, with help from your tongue. As the food is broken down, the chemical substances are detected through receptor taste cells in taste pores. The taste stimulates the receptors and they send out impulses to the brain. Your brain interprets the taste of food and drink.
What if your taste buds are enlarged, swollen, inflamed or infected?
Taste pores may become blocked, and the receptor taste cells cannot perceive the flavor as they normally would. There will be no impulse, or an insufficient impulse sent to your brain, so you will sense a diluted taste, or no taste at all.
That’s why you must take proper care of your oral cavity. If you enjoy the foods you eat, take care of your tongue, so your taste buds will not become inflamed.
Causes of Inflamed or Swollen Taste Buds
Your taste buds may become swollen or inflamed for any of these reasons:
- Medications – Some medicines cause your sense of taste to become distorted.
- Insecticides, alcohol and tobacco – These have chemicals in them that may irritate your tongue nerves.
- Hot food and drink – Food and drink that are very spicy, or served at high temperatures, may cause burns to your taste buds, leading to inflammation. This is not at all uncommon. You’ll notice the effects as soon as you take a sip of coffee that has not cooled at all.
- Injury or physical trauma to the tongue – Burns, lacerations and cuts can damage tongue tissue, causing your taste buds to work less effectively.
- Oral infections and thrush – Infection in your oral cavity can cause irritation of mucous membranes. This makes it more likely that you will develop infected or inflamed taste buds.
- Radiation therapy and chemotherapy – These cancer treatments can damage your mucous membranes. The treatments attack cells, including normal cells. This means that they attack the cells of the mouth, too, making them more fragile.
- Allergies – An allergic reaction caused by foods may increase the white blood cell count in the mouth, causing inflammation.
- Carcinoma – Cancer cells destroy normal tongue cells, including those of the taste buds or papillae.
- Deficiencies in vitamins – C and B-complex vitamins are necessary for a healthy mouth. If you don’t take in enough, it can lead to a swollen tongue.
- Brushing the tongue too vigorously – This deliberately destroys your taste buds.
- Strong types of mouthwashes – Mouth products that are high in chemicals may inflame your mucous membranes.
- Acid reflux – Acid regurgitated up from your stomach is more than your mouth is equipped to handle. If enough is gathered by the taste buds, they will become irritated and swollen.
Taste buds, sometimes called papillae, are small finger-shaped structures protruding over the tongue. They may cause discomfort if they become swollen or enlarged. Infection may add to that problem. When taste buds are inflamed, they become enlarged, reddened or pale and painful, and they lose some of their functionality.
Here are some photographs to help you in determining whether you may have swollen or inflamed taste buds:
Taste bud that has become infected
Taste bud inflamed during a pregnancy
Taste bud that has become enlarged
Taste bud that has become inflamed – also called a canker sore
Inflamed or Swollen Taste Buds – Home Remedies
- Warm salt solutions
Dissolve a teaspoon of sea salt in a glass of warm (not hot) water. Gargle with it three times per day. It will relieve inflammation, since it enhances blood flow to your mouth.
Ice works well in relief for swelling. Press it gently on your tongue. Do not press hard and don’t allow it to remain there for a long period of time. Otherwise, you might restrict the proper blood flow to your tongue, and this could cause bigger problems.
This will heal your tongue if the inflammation was caused by sores in the mouth or physical trauma.
- Tea tree oil
Use an eyedropper to place several drops in a glass of warm water. Gargle with it once or twice a day. This will work well if your tongue infection was caused by bacteria. Do not use too many drops of tea tree oil, as it could further irritate your tongue.
- Baking soda
Apply baking soda directly on the area affected. It will cool the tongue and help to relieve swelling. Baking soda is quite basic, and works especially well if your enlarged tongue was caused by acid reflux from the stomach.
- Pepper, garlic and ginger
Make a mixture of these and gargle with it three or four times per day. It is particularly helpful for bacteria-caused infections on the tongue.
Honey has antibacterial properties. Rinsing or swishing your mouth with honey helps to cleanse the mouth. This is another useful treatment for bacterial infections.
Medical Treatment for Inflamed Taste Buds
If your tongue was infected by fungi, bacteria or virus, your physician will prescribe antifungals, antibiotics or antivirals. Don’t experiment with drugs. Consult your physician for the proper prescription.
If your tongue is enlarged and may be linked to a malignancy, report it to your physician right away.
Supplementing your diet with B & C vitamins may help your inflamed tongue, if the cause was a nutritional deficiency.
If these recommendations are not effective, consult your physician for further diagnosis.
Preventing Enlarged Taste Buds
It’s not difficult to prevent most cases of enlarged taste buds. Keep your tongue clean and don’t use medications that irritate it, unless you and your physician determine that the benefits outweigh the problems. You can’t enjoy food if your taste buds are inflamed, so take care of your tongue.