Conditions,  Health

Tongue Bumps on the Back of the Tongue: Are They Normal? What they Mean? How to get rid of them?

Key Facts

  • Bumps on the back of the tongue are common and can be caused by various factors.
  • They can result from natural structures, infections, injuries, allergic reactions, or systemic diseases.
  • The most common types of bumps are lie bumps (transient lingual papillitis) and enlarged papillae.
  • Treatment varies depending on the cause.
  • Proper oral hygiene and avoiding irritants can prevent some types of bumps.
  • Seeking medical advice is recommended when experiencing persistent, painful, or suspicious bumps.

What are Tongue Bumps?

Tongue bumps are small raised areas or swelling that can appear on different parts of the tongue. These bumps can vary in size, color, and texture, and can be either naturally occurring or indicative of an underlying condition. The back of the tongue commonly has larger, natural bumps known as lingual tonsils or circumvallate papillae. However, when people refer to tongue bumps, they often mean abnormal or unusual bumps that are not a regular part of the tongue’s anatomy.

Types of Tongue Bumps and Their Treatments

Natural Papillae

These are normal and cover the surface of the tongue. They contain taste buds and help in manipulating food.
Treatment: Natural Papillae does not require any form of treatment.

Lie Bumps (Transient Lingual Papillitis)

These are small, red or white bumps that occur on the tongue. They are usually temporary and can cause discomfort or a tingling sensation. They are often due to irritation, stress, or hormonal fluctuations.
Treatment: Generally, no treatment is necessary as they tend to resolve on their own.

Canker Sores (Aphthous Ulcers)

Canker sores are small, shallow ulcers that can appear inside the mouth, including on the tongue. They are often painful and can make eating and talking uncomfortable.
Treatment: Over-the-counter topical creams or mouthwashes, avoiding spicy foods, and maintaining good oral hygiene can aid healing.

Oral Thrush (Candidiasis)

This is a fungal infection that can cause white, raised lesions on the tongue.
Treatment: Interventions that can help with oral thrush include: antifungal medication, topical antifungal creams, good oral hygiene practices, and probiotics, management of underlying conditions, limiting sugar and yeast-containing foods, replacing dentures or cleaning aids, and saline rinses.

Squamous Papilloma

These are benign growths that occur in the mouth, often caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV). They are typically not painful.
Treatment: Removal by a dental professional is usually recommended to prevent further growth or irritation.


This is a sexually transmitted infection that can cause sores or bumps on the tongue during its primary stage.
Treatment: Antibiotics, typically penicillin, are used to treat syphilis.

Scarlet Fever

This is a bacterial infection that can cause a red, bumpy “strawberry tongue”.
Treatment: Antibiotics are required to treat the underlying infection.

Oral Herpes

This viral infection can cause painful blisters or ulcers on the tongue.
Treatment: Antiviral medications can help to reduce the severity and frequency of outbreaks.

Geographic Tongue

Geographic tongue, also known as benign migratory glossitis, is a harmless condition characterized by red, map-like patches on the surface of the tongue. These patches can change in size and location over time. Geographic tongue is usually benign and often doesn’t cause discomfort. However, some people may experience sensitivity or mild pain.
Treatment: topical medications, observation, avoiding irritants, improving oral hygiene, and zinc supplements.


Allergic reactions can cause swelling or bumps on the tongue.
Treatment: Antihistamines and avoiding allergens are common treatments.

Tongue Injuries

Accidentally biting the tongue or consuming hot foods can cause bumps.
Treatment: Pain relief, cold compresses, and avoiding irritating foods can help.

Traumatic Fibroma

A benign growth on the tongue resulting from chronic irritation or trauma.
Treatment: Surgical removal is often recommended.


Inflammation of the tongue that can cause swelling, changes in color, and a smooth appearance.
Treatment: Depends on the cause; may include avoiding irritants, antibiotics, or managing underlying conditions.

Mouth Cancer

Although rare, bumps on the back of the tongue can be cancerous.
Treatment: Surgery, radiation therapy, or chemotherapy may be necessary.

Lymphoepithelial Cysts

Benign cysts that occur in the back of the tongue and appear as yellow or whitish bumps.
Treatment: Usually observation, but surgical removal can be considered if they cause discomfort.

Causes of Enlarged Papillae

Enlarged papillae on the tongue can be caused by:

  • Irritation from spicy or acidic foods
  • Infections
  • Smoking or other tobacco use
  • Oral hygiene issues
  • Hormonal changes
  • Allergic reactions
  • Trauma

How Are Bumps on the Back of Your Tongue Diagnosed?

Diagnosis usually involves a physical examination of the mouth and tongue by a healthcare provider. Medical history, symptoms, and sometimes a biopsy or culture might be needed to identify the specific cause of the bumps.

Treatment for Tongue Bumps

Treatment depends on the underlying cause and can range from oral hygiene practices, medication, avoiding certain foods or habits, and in some cases, surgical intervention.

How Do You Prevent Bumps on the Back of Your Tongue?

Maintaining good oral hygiene, avoiding irritants such as tobacco, limiting consumption of spicy or acidic foods, and seeing a dentist regularly can help prevent bumps on the tongue.

When Should You Consult Your Doctor?

Consult a healthcare provider if you have persistent, unusually painful, or suspicious-looking bumps, especially if accompanied by difficulty swallowing, a high fever, or if you have a known history of infections or immune disorders.

What are Home Remedies for These Problems?

Home remedies for tongue bums include gargling with warm salt water, applying a cold compress, using over-the-counter pain relievers, and maintaining good oral hygiene. All these interventions can relieve some cases of tongue bumps.

What’s the Outlook?

The outlook for tongue bumps on the back of the tongue is generally good, as most are harmless and temporary. However, it is important to identify the cause to ensure appropriate treatment and management.

Bottom Line

Bumps on the back of the tongue are usually harmless and temporary, but can sometimes indicate underlying health issues. Their causes are varied and treatment depends on the underlying cause. Good oral hygiene practices and regular dental check-ups are key for prevention and early detection of any problems. If you have persistent, painful, or suspicious bumps, it is important to consult a healthcare provider.

This article is complete and was published on June 14, 2023, and last updated on August 25, 2023.

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