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Mouth Diseases

Transient Lingual Papillitis - Viral?



I have read through your other posts on transient lingual papillitis, and the information has been helpful. I recently began having "outbreaks" of these lie bumps on my toungue after dating a girl who was complaining of similar symptoms. I HAD experienced them in the past but on a much much more limited basis. Is there any creedence to the possibility that lie bumps are the result of a viral condition? I feel like a leper when it comes to dating again, and I just want to know if I`m putting others at risk. Also, any place I can look to for experimental treatment of the condition. I would love for a cure. About five outbreaks in for months and I`m dying here. Thank you for your help.


Currently there is no established relationship between viral infection and transient lingual papillitis.  Except for herpes virus, viral infections simply do not recur - in the mouth or anywhere else.  And as far as herpes virus is concerned, the only places that it recurs in the oral region would be the perioral skin ("fever blisters") and on the mucosa that is bound to periosteum in the mouth - this means only the gum tissue next to the teeth and the hard palate (front part of the roof of the mouth). 

Herpes viruses recur because they take up residence in the nerves in the area after their first infection, and the body's immune system can't get to them.  Other viruses don't do this - the immune system produces antibodies after the first infection with a particular virus, and then when the virus is encountered again, the antibodies destroy it. This is why vaccinations work to prevent diseases such as smallpox.  People can come into contact with other strains of the virus, however - which is why we keep getting colds all our life.  But this contact with new viral strains would be simply coincidental, and not something that you are personally carrying around.

Transient lingual papillitis is thought to be due to minor trauma to the fungiform papillae, and usually it is not terribly symptomatic - just mildly annoying.  Trauma to the lining of the mouth happens frequently, if you think about how many times you inadvertently bite your cheek, tongue or lip in a week. Most traumatic ulcers heal within two to three days.  If your lesions don't sound as if they fit this pattern, then you may want to consult an oral pathologist for further evaluation.

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Response by:

Carl M Allen, DDS, MSD Carl M Allen, DDS, MSD
Professor Emeritus of Oral Pathology
College of Dentistry
The Ohio State University