The tongue is essential for various functions, including eating, speaking and tasting food. The tongue is a type of muscle that is covered with a protective membrane, and small, white bumps on the tip of the tongue may interfere with eating or speaking. If the bumps are large enough or painful, you may have difficulty tasting food. Bumps on the tip of the tongue can occur due to several underlying conditions.
Small bumps called fungiform papillae cover the tongue, particularly at the tip. These may also be flat in texture and pink in color. Fungiform papillae cover the taste buds and are also responsible for temperature sensitivity. Small, white bumps on the tip of the tongue may affect the fungiform papillae and change the tongue's appearance. They may be the result of an infectious condition that could require treatment or they may be a harmless annoyance that disappear on their own.
Canker sores are painful, white lesions found on the tongue or the inside of the lips. These types of sores can be triggered from poor nutritional intake or soft tissue injury, such as with biting your tongue. Also called aphthous ulcers, they are often irritated with certain foods, including those that are spicy or very hot. Canker sores are not contagious, and they typically resolve on their own after a couple of weeks.
Overgrowth of a fungus called candida in your mouth can cause oral thrush, a condition that results in white patches and bumps on your tongue. Most people have some amount of Candida in the mouth, but certain conditionsm such as illness or a weakened immune system, can cause it to grow excessively. White bumps and lesions appear on the tongue and may show on the gums or the inside of the cheek as well. Attempting to scrape off the bumps on your tongue can cause bleeding.
Transient lingual papillitis occurs as an inflammatory condition of the fungiform papillae. The condition is the result of an injury or irritation to the front of the tongue, causing one or more white bumps on the tip that are painful and inflamed. Transient lingual papillitis has also been referred to as "lie bumps," and the condition typically resolves on its own after one to two days. It may develop again after another triggering event, including trauma to the tongue or other circumstances, such as stress.
Treatment of white bumps on the tip of the tongue depends on the underlying cause and if the condition is causing pain or difficulty with eating or speaking. Some conditions, such as transient lingual papillitis or canker sores may be painful, but self-resolve after several days. Pain with these conditions may be managed by avoiding certain foods and brushing the tongue with a very soft toothbrush. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, oral thrush may be controlled with some foods such as yogurt, which has bacterial properties that can reduce the growth of fungus. Some types of thrush must be treated with an anti-fungal mouth rinse.