Swollen taste buds on the tongue can look enlarged and red. What causes swollen taste buds at the back of the tongue and in the mouth? Allergies, inflammation, cold, tongue piercing, injuries, and STDs cause swelling of taste buds. Here are causes, treatments and how to get rid of swollen taste buds at home or naturally.
What are taste buds?
Taste buds have receptors that detect taste. These buds are small and located on the larger surface of your tongue. The small structures you see on the tongue’s upper surface, the upper part of the esophagus and the soft palette and even the cheeks have taste receptors. These structures are called papillae.
The papillae detect different tastes, which are: umami, bitter, sweet, sour and salty to enable you to perceive flavors. Sometimes, when injured, the tongue swells and may affect these small structures. The side of your tongue may feel inflamed on the sides, at the back of the throat or even the tip of the tongue.
What are swollen taste buds or what are enlarged taste buds?
Swollen taste buds are also described as inflamed papillae in the mouth. When they swell, the buds become enlarged or distended. Some people will simply say that my taste buds are bigger to refer to inflamed tongue taste buds.
What are the symptoms?
The small structures will appear to be enlarged or elongated. Your tongue will feel rough on its surface and will be easily bruised or inflamed. Here are more symptoms of swollen taste buds on the tongue.
- Small painful bumps on the tongue that may appear to be red
- Irritation when eating hot foods
- Enlarged papillae
- Bruises on the tongue
- The tongue loses taste or its ability to perceive flavor.
What causes swollen taste buds?
Why are my taste buds swollen? Irritated tastebuds can be caused by different reasons, from infections to trauma on your tongue. The tongue may hurt depending on the cause. Here are possible causes of swollen taste buds on the tongue, its tip, sides or even upper surface.
1. Transient lingual papillitis may cause swollen white taste buds (with pictures)
If you have recurrent swelling of the taste buds or swelling that is accompanied by lesions on the tip or side of the tongue, you could be having a condition called transient lingual papillitis.
Transient lingual papillitis may cause the surface of the tongue to be enlarged. The fungiform papillae, also called lie bumps, may get inflamed. According to Medical Point, the condition is most common in spring and is prevalent in children.
2. Swollen taste buds STD, herpes or HPV, thrush or yeast infection
Inflamed and swollen taste buds STDs may also be caused by sexually transmitted diseases that show symptoms in the mouth. Herpes simplex type 1 (HSV-1) is a viral infection that may cause cold sores in your mouth and lead to enlarged taste buds with pain, which are normally confused with canker sores. Canker sores may cause inflamed taste receptors, but are not contagious even through kissing.
And does HPV cause swollen tasting buds? SteadyHealth lists that a yellow tongue or white coating on the tongue with sore taste buds can be signs of oral HPV. Bleeding taste buds may result from scraping off the white coating.
Oral thrush or yeast infections may also cause swollen taste receptors and buds. If you have a white patch or plaque on the tongue and around the mouth that can easily be wiped off, then you could be having candida fungus.
Syphilis has also been identified as an STD that causes of sores on the tongue and mouth, thus making papillae swollen.
Another STI that causes swollen taste buds at the back of the tongue I oral gonorrhea. It is characterized by symptoms such as white and yellow plaques on tongue and back of the tongue.
3. Allergic reaction on the tongue
Allergy may be caused by some foods, medications and bee stings. In the case of allergy to bee stings and food allergies, you may have swollen throat or swollen lips.
Allergic reactions cause swelling of tasting buds because there is an increase in the activity of white blood cells. The activity may cause inflammation of the tongue and lead to swollen papillae.
4. Vitamin deficiency (vitamin C and B complex)
A sore tongue can result from vitamin deficiency. According to eMedical Hub, vitamins B complex and C help maintain a healthy mouth. If there’s a deficiency, you are likely to end up with a swollen tongue and thus enlarged taste buds. These may be symptoms of scurvy.
5. Swollen taste buds after eating acidic foods, salty and spicy foods, pineapples
Eating acidic foods and foods that are too spicy or salty can make the taste receptor buds to swell. This is because acidic foods such as pineapples irritate the tongue and make it swollen. Other foods that are known to cause similar symptoms to include:
An irritated tongue from acidic foods may have swollen red taste buds and can also itch. You may experience an itchy feeling on the tongue and want to relieve it by scratching your tongue against your teeth. This is not advised because you are likely to aggravate the swollen taste receptors even further and cause bleeding.
6. Hot drinks cause inflammation of taste buds
Hot foods and drinks with high temperatures usually irritate the tongue. These are even worse if they are spicy. Hot drinks burn your taste buds and cause inflammation. Hot spicy foods not only affect the taste receptors but also the lymph nodes and glands in your mouth.
7. Enlarged taste buds after drinking and chewing tobacco, cinnamon gum
Swollen taste buds on the back of the tongue or even at the edges may result from drinking alcohol and chewing tobacco. Insecticides, alcohol, and tobacco are known to have strong chemical substances that inflame and irritate the tongue.
In this forum, users have complained that cinnamon gum also causes a burning tongue and swelling of taste buds. The Cinnamon Big Red Gum, in particular, is discussed with claims that it causes a sore tongue and small bumps that are inflamed.
8. Tongue piercing and swollen tasting buds
A tongue piercing infection can show symptoms such as redness, swelling, bleeding and discharge, discoloration of the tongue and general inflammation. According to the Crystal Ball, enlarged buds at the end of tongue or tip of the tongue may become tender and enlarged.
Also, a tongue piercing can lead to tingling in the tongue and a burning sensation on the sides of the tongue and around the mouth. For most people with an infected tongue piercing, the swollen taste buds won’t go away until the tongue is healed.
9. Swollen taste buds cancer
Swollen tongue taste receptors, tongue ulcers, blisters on tongue and sores on the tongue are all said to be signs of mouth cancer in some cases. Cancer cells usually grow and destroy normal cells in the mouth and on the tongue, including papillae. The most common type of cancer that may cause enlarged taste buds is called squamous cell carcinoma.
10. Cracked tongue, biting, injuries, bruises, and tongue rubbing
Taste buds in the middle of the tongue can swell if you rub the tongue or if you brush it with rough bristles and strokes. Physical traumas such as cuts, burns, lacerations, bites, and scratches can easily cause the taste receptors to swell and enlarge.
A metallic taste in mouth, sensitive tongue, loss of taste and geographic or fissured tongue are may appear as physical trauma on the tongue even though they are not. However, they are also associated with the swelling of taste buds on different parts of the tongue.
Rubbing and an attempt to pop tongue bumps or pimples can also be a source of physical trauma that will result in inflammation, injury, and swelling.
11. Dry mouth and throat
Dry mouth and throat can be what causes swollen taste buds at the back of the tongue. The burning tongue or burning mouth syndrome is usually characterized by the lack of lubrication in the mouth, which leaves the tongue dry and rough.
The friction of a dry tongue against teeth is likely to cause burning sensations. According to Masscfids.org, a patient is likely to experience a burning mouth and swelling of the tongue “nerve endings on all of these extra taste buds become dry, irritated or inflamed…”
12. Lupus and swelling of tongue taste buds
According to the United States Library of Medicine National Institute of Health, lupus has been identified as one of the autoimmune diseases that affect taste functions of the tongue and show symptoms such as inflammation and swelling. Apart from lupus, Sjögren’s syndrome, another autoimmune disease may also cause inflamed taste buds.
13. Swollen taste buds and sore throat, with a cold and strep throat
Swollen taste buds at the back of the tongue or all over tongue are associated with a sore throat. During a cold, you are likely to experience problems with sinus, blocked ears, a runny nose, blocked or clogged nose, cough, fever, and headaches.
According to the WebMD’s symptom checker, strep throat, acute sinusitis, tonsillitis and the common cold are all associated with the swelling of and malfunction of taste buds. In order to get rid of a swollen taste buds on the tongue, you will need to treat strep throat, common cold or a sore throat in order to relieve the pain from swelling.
14. Adderall side effects of swelling, irritated taste buds on the tongue
According to Wikipedia, Adderall is a “psychostimulant drug of the phenethylamine class prescribed in the treatment of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and narcolepsy.”
Patients who take this drug have reported signs and symptoms including swelling of glands, including an inflamed mouth and tongue, and swollen salivary glands. HealthLine also lists extremely or excessive swelling of taste buds on the tongue, swollen throat, face and tongue as some of the severe side effects of Adderall.
15. Hormones, stress, anxiety, and depression
Hormonal imbalances in the body due to emotions such as stress, depression, and anxiety are also believed to cause tongue and taste bud swelling. During stress, the body’s balance of hormones is affected, which in turn weakens the immune system and allowing infections on the tongue.
According to the Ito Hospital website, hypothyroidism, as caused by hormonal changes and imbalance, may lead to thickened lips, swollen eyelids and enlarged tongue taste buds.
16. Inflamed taste buds from sugar or sweets
An enlarged taste bud may result from irritation from sugar or sweets. While irritations in most people come from changed toothpaste or mouthwash, eating high sugar products, just like the salty ones as we have seen can cause the inflammation or irritation.
17. Acid reflux and swollen taste buds all over the tongue
Lastly, GERD or regurgitated acid released from the stomach can be too strong for the mouth and burn the tongue. Usually, the back of the tongue I the most affected, leading to swelling of taste buds at the back of tongue more than on the tip and sides. If acid reflux is severe, you are likely to end up with inflamed taste buds all over the tongue.
Swollen taste buds on the back of the tongue with pictures or images
Enlarged taste buds at the back of the tongue will damage the tongue’s ability to detect some flavors. The National Center of Biotechnology Information notes that while the sides of the tongue are the most sensitive compared to the tip and the back, the back of the tongue “is very sensitive to bitter tastes.”
When scalded, taste receptors at back close to the throat will not taste. The swellings can appear to be big or small. Acid reflux affects this part a lot more than other causes discussed above. Allergies and infections can also cause the irritation. See pictures of the back of the tongue with swelling taste receptors.
Enlarged taste buds at the tip of tongue or end of the tongue
Why do I have white taste buds inflamed at the tip of my tongue? For most people, the tip of the tongue is affected more than the edges and the back. The end of the tongue is easy to move around, making it a culprit of rubbing and bruising from teeth. For example, most people will try to remove tonsil stones using the tip of the tongue.
The tip of the tongue has a large number of filiform papillae and fungiform papillae. When the taste buds at the tip of the tongue are swollen or enlarged, you will not taste or detect sour, sweet, bitter and salty tastes.
Swelling of tasting buds on side of tongue or edge of the tongue
If not all over the tongue, swollen taste buds on side of the tongue can also be uncomfortable and make your tongue unable to taste some flavors.
Since the sides or edges of your tongue get in contact with your teeth more often than other parts, the friction is likely to be one of the major causes of enlarged tasting buds on the sides of your tongue. Treatment and cures for swollen taste buds on sides of the tongue will always focus on eliminating the cause.
What to do when taste buds swell for months, 1, 2 weeks, and won’t go away
A swollen and painful taste bud on your tongue can cause a lot of discomforts. It is expected that the irritation will go away on its own, without any treatment and medication.
According to the WebMD, tongue discoloration, swelling and inflammation that lasts longer than two weeks and goes into months should be taken to a dentist for proper diagnosis and treatment. If you have a fever and red spots on the tongue, you could be having an infection that may need fast treatment to get rid of the swellings.
Swollen and sore tongue during pregnancy and in children
Sometimes in pregnancy, women complain of a bloated or enlarged tongue. While spicy foods and biting of the tongue are known to be culprits, in pregnancy, it could be a serious medical problem that should be addressed. The same enlarged taste buds in children can also be dangerous and may require treatment.
So what causes the swelling of taste buds during pregnancy? According to Sabrina of When I Am Pregnant, immunity weakens when one is pregnant, leaving the mother susceptible to viral, bacterial and fungal infections. The same reason is responsible for taste bud enlargement in children and toddlers. Thyroid hormone imbalances (hypothyroidism) is common during pregnancy. This is also linked to an enlarged tongue and its taste receptors.
How to get rid of swollen taste buds
What do you do to get rid of swollen taste buds at the back of tongue, tip, and sides? You will want to soothe and heal painful taste buds fast, naturally with simple home remedies and treatments. Below, I have listed some of the best ways to heal swollen taste receptors by yourself, from medical treatments to home remedies and other cures.
To reduce the swelling, make some ice and apply it on your tongue on the areas that are swollen. Ice cubes can soothe the tongue, but you can easily burn your tongue with if you keep doing it for long.
Hydrate your mouth and body
As we saw above, a dry mouth or a dehydrated body can also lead to sore taste buds. Drinking adequate fluids every day can help reduce the dry feeling that irritates your tongue. Some probiotic yogurts are also recommended to heal an aggravated tongue taste receptors fast.
Home remedies to heal swollen taste buds
Home remedies for swollen tasting buds include the use of garlic, ice packs, tea tree oil, baking soda, honey and warm saline solutions in your mouth. Here’s how to heal a swollen taste bud naturally.
1. Baking soda cure
Baking soda is known to have anti-inflammatory properties. As such, it will help you relieve an inflamed taste bud on your tongue.
- Apply baking powder or soda directly onto the swollen area to reduce the swelling.
- Allow sitting until the tongue cools down.
- Baking soda also gets rid of acid reflux, if you may find it as the main cause of the problem.
2. Gargle with a salt solution
- Make a warm salt solution by mixing lukewarm water with a teaspoon of salt and dissolving.
- Gargle with the solution to relieve the swelling.
- Repeat this 3 times a day to get rid of inflamed taste buds at the tip of the tongue, back, and throat.
It is believed that salt water will kill bacteria and germs that might be aggravating the inflammation.
3. Gargling with tea tree oil solution
To heal a swollen tongue naturally, add a few drops of tea tree oil into the lukewarm water. Mix well and gargle with it. This is a good remedy if the swelling is caused by bacterial infections in the mouth. Note – you should not add too many drops of tea tree oil because they can lead to hallucinations.
4. Swash honey on your tongue
Honey has antibacterial and healing properties. It is the best way to get rid of swollen buds in your mouth. Swash it on your tongue, or make a solution with warm water and gargle with it to soothe the tongue.
Cures and treatment for enlarged taste buds
Medical treatments for swollen buds on your tongue depend on the cause. If caused by viral infections, STDs, bacteria or trauma, appropriate treatments will be applied. Here are the common ways to treat inflamed taste buds.
- Vitamin B complex and C are prescribed if you get the problem as a result of nutritional deficiency.
- Antibiotics and antivirals are also prescribed to get rid of swelling tongue taste buds caused by HPV herpes and bacterial infections. Fungal medications may also be prescribed to get rid of yeast infections in your oral cavity.
Treatments can help, but if you have swelling buds that won’t go away, there are ways to prevent it from recurring.
- Avoid alcohol, tobacco and any irritating and poisonous substances.
- Avoid injuring your tongue by brushing it too aggressively, rubbing it and biting it.
- Ensure you maintain proper oral hygiene to minimize fungal and bacterial infections on your tasting buds.
- Avoid eating spicy and sour foods.
- Never drink scalding hot drinks and beverages.
These practices should help you heal swollen buds on the tongue, its sides, back, throat, and even a scalded roof of the mouth. If none of this helps, see a doctor for proper diagnosis and treatment.
References and further reading
- Medical Point: Transient Lingual Papillitis
- NHS Choice: Oral Thrush in Adults
- EverydayHealth: Swollen Tongue
- The Massachusetts CFIDS/ME & FM ASSOCIATION: Oral Complications in Sjögren’s Syndrome and Chronic Dry Mouth
- NCBI: Inflammation and taste disorders: mechanisms in taste buds
- WebMD: Sore throat and Swollen tongue
- Wikipedia: Taste Bud
- WhenIAmPregnant: Swollen and Sore Tongue During Pregnancy: Its Causes and Remedies