Inflamed, Enlarged or Swollen Taste Buds on Back, Tip or Side of Tongue 

Why do taste buds swell or get enlarged? Explore various causes and symptoms of inflamed tongue papillae and infected taste buds with aid of the pictures provided. There is a lot to do to help the situation. Find out what treatments including home remedies to get rid the swelling or inflammation.

What are they?

These are structures with specialized epithelia that help in sense of taste like salt, sour, sweet or bitter with aid of taste cells and taste receptors – all located around small structures called papillae. The human oral cavity has numerous taste buds to mediate tasting and flavor namely soft palate, upper esophagus, epiglottis and inner cheek. When they are irritated they get enlarged and swell thus the ability to food tasting is largely affected.

There are four types of lingual papillae that is:

  1. Filiform papillae. They are thin, long and most in number.
  2. Fungiform papillae mostly located at the back of the tongue or dorsal surface of your tongue.
  3. Circumvallate papillae also located at the back of the tongue and are about 10 – 14 in number.
  4. Foliate papillae.

Babies have more of these structures taste than there are in adults. Let us start by looking at what causes them.


Have you a problem tasting sweet foods? Probably your taste buds on the tip of the tongue are infected or substances have irritated them. When they get irritated and inflamed, a condition known as papillitis could result but it usually resolves on its own shortly in a few weeks. What causes the buds on tip, back or side of the tongue to get inflamed and irritated?

Very hot foods

This is a common reason for getting swollen buds that people ignore; not really because they are ignorant. Heat in food that is too hot actually burns the tongue and in this way, the taste buds get burnt too. If they swell it results in malfunctioning of receptors hence loss of taste.

Injuries to Tongue, Trauma, biting, scratching or rubbing

Secondly, all forms of injury that can occur on your tongue will for sure cause them to swell, become painful and hurt. Both the tip of the tongue and the sides are too exposed to tongue biting. Although it is thought to be unintentional, tongue bites can really irritate. More so, an injured tongue may become swollen and painful too.

Other possible forms of injury to make taste buds to hurt include using dental appliances (ill-fitting dental prosthetic appliances), oral surgery operations, rough and a vigorous brushing, malformed, cracked or broken teeth or using your teeth for purposes which they are not meant for, etc. Additionally, injuries that may cause trauma and serious damage to the tongue include tongue lacerations, head injuries, and others.

Oral Infections

An oral infection or mouth disease which affects the tongue can make them get enlarged or swollen, says this dental implants in West Hollywood CA. Any mouth disease irritates the mucous membrane which is very sensitive and more vulnerable to infections. It is a sufficient irritation that one can easily develop tongue infections including that might affect the taste buds too. An example of such an infection is oral thrush. In addition, if have an infection and you insist on taking hot fluids expect the swelling to extend and get worse.

Another reason why they get swollen and hurt too is due to mouth ulcer infections. These infections are usually characterized by swollen round or oval-shaped sores in your mouth and cause taste bud pain. Tongue biting and cheek biting, are common causes of mouth ulcers. Commonly found on the tongue, on lips and cheeks, mouth sores can be red or white. However, mouth sores should not be confused with cold sores.

Patients with recurrent herpes potentially end up with infected taste buds. This viral infection “limited to the keratinized mucosa of lips, gingiva, hard palate and dorsal aspect of the tongue.” [] is equally reasonable for causing taste buds that are painful and also can hurt.

Acid Reflux

Another cause, especially on the back of the tongue, is when someone or individuals have an acid reflux. This condition happens when there is too much acid in the stomach such that the excess flows back to your mouth, especially back of the mouth and tongue. Bearing in mind the alkaline or basic conditions in the mouth and oral cavity, such a slight acidity or difference in pH (acidity or alkalinity) can irritate taste buds, therefore, causing swelling or enlargement.

Raised Taste Buds Allergic Reactions

According to Medical Hub, if your oral allergies are triggered by the food there is an increase in production of white blood cells which ignites inflammation on papillae. Seafood is examples of the source of allergy. Besides food allergens, certain chemicals in medicines or poisons may be a reason for raised and burnt taste buds: chemicals whose acidity is intolerable by the mouth “causes depolarization of the taste cells.” []

Vitamin Deficiencies

One of the common deficiencies that results in them is lack of sufficient iron. If the deficiency is chronic the tongue may as well become inflamed and turn red due to atrophy of papillae or atrophic glossitis. This leads to a painful tongue which is a symptom associated with Plummer Vinson syndrome.

The other vital vitamins which are important in nutrition are vitamin B complex, B-12, and folic acid.

Radiation Therapy and Chemotherapy

Radiation therapy as a treatment process can cause damage to the mucous membranes. When this therapy is used in controlling or treating patients with oral cancer.

Use of Strong Mouthwashes

Some antibiotics may contain chemicals that can easily irritate the papillae hence triggering inflammation that makes them become enlarged.

Other causes

Given the fact that papillae can also present in other parts of the oral cavity namely soft palate, epiglottis, pharynx and larynx: the following are the other possible factors that can make them look swollen.

  • Fungal infections on surface of tongue or mucosa,
  • Certain medical conditions such as diabetes, Bell’s palsy, and Parkinson’s disease,
  • Suppressed immune system. This means that your organ defense against infections is compromised. Such individuals are those living with HIV, syphilis or gonorrhea and other STDs.
  • Neck cancer,
  • Ageing, etc.

On side of tongue

If you have this problem on one on the side of the tongue , they may be as well be inflamed or irritated by the sort of causes, conditions or substances we have looked at. Any of causes above may be account for swollen taste buds on side of your tongue. However major causes include:

  • injury due to bites, tongue lacerations;
  • oral infections,
  • too hot foods and drinks,
  • strong mouthwash,
  • smoking and use of tobacco

In case you notice a presence of bumps on the tongue and sore taste buds on sides of tongue know that is an indication of lesions that form after biting your tongue. In short, injury or trauma on the tongue can cause sores thus sore taste buds.

During pregnancy

Can pregnancy cause swollen taste buds? The reasons for inflamed or sore taste buds on tongue discussed can inflict your tongue even during pregnancy i.e. pregnancy does not cause them. May be you love spicy foods or you may take it while hot. Symptoms are no a difference at all whether you are pregnant or not. As Dr. Sandra Eleczko notes that it only depends on what causes them to appear.

However, if they are so enlarged but there is no pain, that could mean something else. Take a greater responsibility and see your clinical doctor or dentist to test for allergies, oral cancer, infections such as thrush, mouth or canker sores.

At the back of tongue and throat oral cancer

Tastebud swelling may be one of the signs of having an infection from oral cancer. If you persistently get difficulty in speaking, making jaw movements, swallowing, persistent mouth sores (on tongue) that never heal please go for checking with urgently before the cancerous cells multiply.

White and inflamed tongue papillae

Why do you have white swollenpapillae on tip or sides of your tongue? That is a sign of your tongue being infected by either mouth sores or papillitis also known as transient lingual papillitis. Mouth sores are painful but swollen white taste buds due to papillitis is considered a benign form of inflammation. Remember to go for checking if your papillae turn red with white borders.

Cures and Treatments to Get Rid of them

What can I use to get rid of swollen taste buds? When inflamed and swollen may cause discomfort and lower your quality of life. So, how do you get rid of this problem?

Cure the underlying cause

One of the effective ways in getting rid of papillae swelling is by finding the cause and treating it. For instance, if infections (mouth sore, oral thrush or cancer) is what causes taste buds to swell, seek medication from a health center. In the case for mouth ulcers go for antimicrobial mouthwash, to boost healing while preventing infections of the sores. You may also get painkillers or corticosteroids to relieve of pain. Note that children under 2 years of age should not be given this treatment.

Treatment using Antibiotics

For this treatment to be its worth, patients with this problems should see a specialist to confirm what is behind the swelling. Your specialist should then recommend a prescription antibiotic for a specified period.

Natural Cures

Most natural remedies are meant to help you clear oral inflammations some of which are temporary but who wants to get such discomfort even for a second! Learn more on how you can easily cure or prevent getting enlarged taste buds even after you have had other treatments.

a.      Dilute Tree Oil

After your doctor has determined that your swollen papillae are due to infections, you can prepare tree oil and gargle, bud do not swallow. As a natural cure, tea tree oil contains antibiotic ingredients that will inhibit or stop infectious and harmful bacteria from multiplying in mouth.

b.      Apply baking Soda

Secondly, use of baking soda as a natural cure relieves of discomfort such as inflammation which only triggers swelling of taste buds.

  • Apply small amount of baking soda on tip of tongue or inflamed area.
  • Leave it for at least 10 minutes and swish with warm water and spit out.

c.       Warm salt solution gargle

Apart from applying baking soda solution, you should also try gargling with a salty solution. The positive fact about this home remedy is quick results and relieving of inflammation in case it is due to bacterial infections.

d.      Garlic Juice

Consider taking at least a glass or two of garlic juice. Garlic has soothing effect to help get rid of inflamed taste buds. You may also mix it with a little ginger or pepper.

e.       Apply ice cream cubes

Applying ice cream as another simple remedy can also help numb pain that results after swelling of the papillae.

f.        Take Natural Yoghurt

If you take natural or probiotic yogurt on a good run, you increase the oral capability of fighting the infection causing bacteria while the beneficial bacteria multiply. These useful bacteria in yogurt are a good natural cure for infected taste buds. Unfortunately, if you are allergic to dairy products, you have to see your doctor to get anti-biotic prescription treatments to get rid of bacteria.

Apart from home remedies what else can you do to prevent getting inflamed or enlarged papillae?

  • Observe your daily oral hygiene and make it a routine cleaning.
  • Avoid eating foods that are too hot or spicy.
  • Secondly stop consumption of both alcoholic substances and cigarette if you already have them caused other reasons. Alcohol contains certain chemicals can cause further irritation of taste buds on tip, side or back of the tongue and cheeks.
  • Learn to manage stress by balancing work and other constructive physical or mental activities to keep your psyche at ease.
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