Since 1995 - Non Profit Healthcare Advice

Painful red bumps on SIDE of tongue



I frequently (every few months) get large painful bumps on the side of my tounge. My dentist never seems to be worried about them, but today i noticed that they were affecting my speach, making me slur, and that i was holding my tounge bent with the bumps sticking out between my lips so they would not be pressing on my teeth because they hurt so bad. I have not had any trama, no hot drinks or spicy foods or gum, and have not bitten myself. What is this and how can I make it go away and not come back?


I would need to see what is going on before I could determine what was actually occurring and what may be required to alleviate the pain and reoccurrence.

I would presume that the “bumps” you are describing are lingual papilla and if they are on the lateral border of the tongue, most likely foliate papilla. Enlargement of these finger-like projections usually is the result of trauma, either through

  • biting the tongue,
  • reactant foods (acid or spicy),
  • or subconscious habits such as pushing your tongue against the teeth.

Other causes of pain and swelling of the papilla may be the result of dry mouth (xerostomia) that can be caused by some medications, or diseases of the salivary glands.

Finally, sometimes as a result of loss of saliva and or illnesses, you can develop an over growth of yeast in the oral cavity (Candida sp.). Based upon your report of not remembering traumatic incidents and/or food irritants, you may have a contact allergy occurring, in such case you would normally have ulceration at the site instead of a papillary swelling, but without seeing it, I can only theorize what is occurring.

One of the problems with tongue irritation and trauma is that you generally don’t remember it occurring, and after it has happened (traumatic event) you continue to traumatize the site because of the resultant swelling.

I normally say “have your dentist evaluate the problem”, but I presume you already have, and he or she has not seen anything that is suspect of a more serious problem. If it persists or gets worse I would have it evaluated by either an oral medicine specialist or an oral surgeon.

For more information:

Go to the Dental and Oral Health Center health topic.