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The presence of white or red bumps on your tongue is known as lingual papillitis, they are also commonly called lie bumps. To a lot of people, they appear as pimples on their tongue and therefore some people even refer to them as such.
They can be incredibly painful and can cause a lot of discomfort. They can make drinking or eating uncomfortable. (1) The good news is that they do not require any special treatment and resolve by themselves in a few days.
Cause and Risk Factors of Lingual Papillitis (Pimples on the Tongue)
Although it is not clearly known what exactly causes pimples on the tongue, the following are associated with an increased risk: (2)
- Trauma to the tongue
- Eating a lot of spicy food
- Digestive issues
- Reaction to a food
- Acidic food
- Consuming a sugar-based diet
Signs and Symptoms of Lingual Papillitis
Pimples on the tongue can be characterized by the following symptoms: (3)
- Burning sensation
- Red or yellow papules
- Discomfort while eating
Ways to Treat and Avoid Pimples on the Tongue
Lingual papillitis usually resolves by itself within a week and hence does not require any treatment. However, since its symptoms can be very uncomfortable and hinder your daily activities, you can try the following interventions for some relief. (3)
1. Take medication
You can take OTC painkillers and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs to relieve the pain. Using topical creams to cover the pimple on the tongue is also a good way to protect it from irritation.
Drinking plenty of water is an important factor in the management of tongue papillitis. Make sure you drink at least 5 cups of water daily. Set a reminder on your phone to hydrate every few minutes. (4)
3. Follow the right diet
It is extremely important to have the right diet to not aggravate tongue bumps. This means you should not indulge in spicy or sugary food. Avoid any kind of food that may irritate your tongue and gums.
Tobacco and smoking are also a big no. Acidic foods should also not be eaten. (3)
4. Develop good habits
Smoking is a bad habit, especially if you have tongue bumps. Thus, you should quit smoking to prevent exacerbating the condition.
Also, alcohol should only be consumed in limited amounts. If you have any underlying issues such as diabetes, manage them properly. (5)
Treatment is really not necessary since transient cases of lingual papillitis usually resolve on their own.
However, rinsing your mouth with mouthwash or gargling with warm salt water is a good practice that helps manage lingual papillitis. This is because it helps to reduce bacteria in the mouth. (6)
6. Maintain proper oral hygiene
According to dermatologists, some cases of transient lingual papillitis are due to poor oral hygiene. (7)
Also, in one study, medical advice shared with those who suffer from lingual papillitis includes practicing proper oral hygiene. The study further presented that 1 week of incorporating good oral hygiene practices caused 80% of the lesions to be resolved without any recurrent lesions. (8)
Diagnosing Lingual Papillitis
Looking in the mirror and examining your tongue is a good way to check for pimples on your tongue. Also, if you are experiencing the symptoms mentioned above, you may be suffering from lingual papillitis.
If the symptoms don’t go away even after a few days and cause a lot of discomfort, seek medical assistance at the earliest. (3)
A medical professional such as a dentist will be able to diagnose what kind of bumps it is only by looking at them. To check whether the bump is associated with a viral infection or not, they might require further tests.
Important Points to Remember
- Lingual papillitis resolves on its own after 2–3 days, so try not to stress about it. (6)
- Avoid eating food that is very spicy or acidic to avoid aggravating the symptoms.
- Avoid burning your tongue with a hot beverage or a warm dish.
- Avoid popping the bump as it is unnecessary and can cause pain.
When to See a Doctor
Lingual papillitis is an extremely uncomfortable condition. These pimples on the tongue, sometimes, can be indicative of more serious diseases that may affect overall health. If these lesions on your tongue don’t resolve by themselves in 10 days, seek professional help. (9)
Are pimples on the tongue contagious?
Whether or not they are contagious depends upon the cause. If they are caused by an infection such as one by a virus, then they can spread from one person to another. This kind of lingual papilla will take more than a few days to resolve. Otherwise, they do not tend to spread.
Is oral thrush the same as pimples on the tongue?
Oral thrush is an infection caused by yeast and is more commonly observed in babies. It also appears as bumps on the tongue. (10)
Transient lingual papillitis is an inflammatory condition of the tongue that presents itself as pimples on the tongue. It is extremely painful and appears red-white.
The causes of these bumps are not very well known, but they are commonly associated with hot and spicy foods, stress, or other sources of trauma. Diagnosis can be achieved simply by a physical examination.
The condition resolves itself in 2–3 days, and over-the-counter topical anesthetics and corticosteroids can relieve the discomfort and pain.