Pimple-Like Bumps on the Tongue

White, pimple-like bumps that form on your tongue are commonly called lie bumps. Painful and characterized by a swollen appearance, lie bumps are a result of irritation to the individual fungiform papillae that house your taste buds. The technical name for lie bumps is transient lingual papillitis (TLP) and is not a serious health condition.

Young doctor examines patient's mouth (Image: AlexRaths/iStock/Getty Images)

Symptoms

When you examine transient lingual papillitis in the mirror you may notice bumps that are white and quite large. This is because of the inflammation that is occurring as a result of trauma to the fungiform papillae. Because this condition is painful, your first reaction may be to run your tongue across your teeth for relief. This is not a good idea as you can worsen overall irritation and pain, despite the temporary relief.

Causes

No one single cause can be attributed to transient lingual papillitis, however, it has been found to appear in individuals who eat high acidic fruits and vegetables as well as sugary food and drink. Another factor contributing to TLP is trauma caused by scratching or cutting of the delicate fungiform papillae. Gastrointestinal complications and stress may also contribute to TLP. This condition is not contagious and are not caused by bacterial or fungal infections.

Treatment

Oral hygiene is the first line of treatment for transient lingual papillitis. Brushing twice daily and flossing afterward helps prevent bacteria from causing infection in your taste buds. Over-the-counter medications such as OraBase or Zilactin can be used to cover bumps caused by TLP, acting as a bandage. This prevents further irritation and allows bumps to heal without risk of infection. Another treatment to consider is rinsing with a warm salt water solution or mouthwash.

Considerations

Transient lingual papillitis, although not contagious, should be treated with absolute care. Bumps caused by TLP clear on their own within two to three days, provided there is no further irritation of the tongue. Limiting sugary and acidic foods during the healing process may help.

Warnings

Pimple-like bumps on your tongue that last longer than one week may not be transient lingual papillitis. See you doctor for an accurate diagnosis if you experience these symptoms, or if you have bumps on other areas of your body in addition to your tongue.

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