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Dental and Oral Health (Adults)

Bumps on My Tongue

06/18/2009

Question:

For a while I have been getting these little bumps under my tongue, some would be on the line under the tongue, they are painless and look very thin, they are red and clear. When I touch them, they move side to side, I would also have red bumps under there also, they are painless as well. On the side of my tongue, very close to the tip, are red little painless bumps, they look like slightly long taste buds and I can move them. Usually there are about 5 to 10 of them, mixed in with them or right in front, is one long and very painful bump that is red at the base and clear at the tip, or it would be an very painful imbedded clear bump is big but not very big.

I usually have two of these painful bumps but today I’ve noticed I have three. The pain and look of them makes me want to pull at them. The little red bumps are also on the flat part of my tongue mostly in front (they don’t hurt, just stand out).

Now at the back of my tongue, by my bigger taste buds, are big bumps as well. They sit on top of my tongue, there are about 2 or 3 of them lumped up together on each side of my tongue. They are the normal pink tongue color and I have to stick my tongue all the way out to see them. They don`t hurt but never go away like the ones under and in front of my tongue.

Can you please help on what it may be and what I can do to remove the pain when this happens? I don`t have the means to see a doctor at the moment so I need all the help that I can get. Thanks much

Answer:

The first "line of bumps" you describe would be consistent with normal structures of the tongue known as the fimbriated fold.

Some of the bumps you describe may be due to Transient lingual papillitis (TLP), a harmless, but annoying, problem. This condition is limited to the upper (dorsal) surface of the tongue, affecting some of the tiny bumps on the tongue known as the fungiform papillae.

Fungiform papillae are the normal little bumps on the top of the tongue that people call "taste buds." These bumps can become notably red or white and are quite tender for one to several days.

While the cause of TLP is not known with certainty, most experts feel that local accidental trauma (rubbing, scraping or biting) is a major factor, however, contact reactions to things like certain foods have also been suggested.

In the southern United States, these have sometimes been referred to as "lie bumps" - supposedly the person who gets one of these has recently told a lie, and this is their punishment!

Most people, when their tongue is irritated, can't seem to keep from rubbing it against the teeth to make it feel better (sort of like scratching an itch); however, this usually makes things worse.

Over-the-counter medications such as OraBase or Zilactin can be applied. These materials act like a bandage and help to protect the ulcerated surface of the fungiform papilla.

Lie bumps are not contagious and the discomfort is relatively minor. Typically these lesions heal within a few days with no treatment. If they do not, then you should be seen by an oral pathologist.

Bumps that are lined up across the very back part of your tongue and are about the same size probably represent what are known as circumvalate papillae.

Most people have about 6 to 8 of these normal structures that form a V that points to the back of the throat, but often they are not noticed because they are so far back. Usually these structures can't be seen unless a person sticks their tongue out really far, and they may not be noticed until later in life when a person might have a sore throat, stick their tongue out, and look at it in a mirror with good lighting.

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Response by:

John R Kalmar, DMD, PhD John R Kalmar, DMD, PhD
Clinical Professor of Pathology
College of Dentistry
The Ohio State University