Tongue Bumps: when to see a doctor

Tongue bumps are often harmless, but they can feel uncomfortable. They appear for various reasons. It can be due to biting or burning your tongue accidentally. Or it can be because of more serious causes, such as an allergy, canker sore, or cancer.

Let’s look further into the different causes of tongue bumps and when you should see a doctor.

Not all tongue bumps suggest harm

Not all tongue bumps indicate a potential issue. The tongue is naturally filled with small bumps called the papillae. They are the same colour as the tongue and are usually easy to spot when you look in the mirror. The majority of the papillae contain taste buds, which allow us to recognize taste, texture, and temperature.

Why do tongue bumps grow abnormally?

The papillae of tongue bumps can grow abnormally. Some bumps grow temporarily and heal on their own. While some can be persistent and require treatment. Here are some of the potential causes of tongue bumps.

  • Tongue injuries. Trauma or injury to the tongue can cause it to swell. When you accidentally bite or burn your tongue, a bump may develop on the site.
  • Lie bumps. Lie bumps are small white or red bumps that appear when the tongue is irritated. They can be painful, even if you're not eating. Some also cause an itching or burning sensation. But lie bumps often heal on their own after several days and don’t need treatment.
  • Canker sores. Canker sores are small lesions that form inside the mouth, including the gums and lips. They can be painful and make eating and talking uncomfortable. But they aren’t contagious and go away on their own, even without treatment. The causes of canker sores remain unclear, but they’re linked to several factors, such as stress, acidic food, and injury to the mouth.
  • Oral herpes. Tongue herpes is a viral infection that can cause cold sores on the lips or around the nose and mouth. The blisters can cause an itching, burning, and painful sensation. Tongue herpes is a highly contagious disease. It can be passed on through the saliva or skin of the active carrier, for example, through kissing or sharing utensils. It can also be spread through sexual contact or oral sex without using any kind of barriers, such as condoms.
  • Human papillomavirus. Human papillomavirus, or HPV, is a type of sexually transmitted disease that can also affect the mouth. HPV can cause bumps to appear on your lips, tongue, and throat. These bumps are small, slightly raised, and painless. They’re often harmless, but they can make eating and drinking difficult. They can also be removed, so it’s best to check options with your doctor. Some types of HPV can increase your risk of developing oral cancer.
  • Allergies. Allergic reactions may also cause swelling or bumps on the tongue. Sudden swelling can be dangerous as it can be a sign of anaphylaxis. Anaphylaxis is a severe allergic reaction and can be life-threatening.

When should you see a doctor?

It’s safe to wait for a few days if the tongue bumps aren’t causing discomfort or pain. If the symptoms persist for more than a week, consider seeing your dentist or doctor for a checkup. An enlarged tongue bump that doesn’t heal can be a sign of a serious health condition.

Seek immediate medical attention if you are experiencing anaphylactic shock or if the bump is interfering with your breathing or eating. A medical team will conduct exams to rule out potential causes and diagnose your condition.

If you are concerned about bumps on your tongue, don’t hesitate to ask your dentist at your next appointment to take a look. Call us at (613) 258-7373 to book an appointment today.