Swollen Taste Bud: 10 Best Reasons To Know

The world has a wholesome of flavors for us to enjoy out there, and our taste buds are responsible for helping us enjoy all of them. This article will give you a brief idea of what exactly taste buds are and what can cause a Swollen Taste Bud.

Because of our taste buds, we can tell an ice cream is sweet, and a lemon is tart.

1. What Are Taste Buds?

Taste buds are a cluster of taste receptor cells. There are present all over the oral cavity-mainly the tongue- known as lingual taste buds. They are also located on other structures like the soft palate, pharynx, larynx, and upper esophagus, and these are known as the extra lingual taste buds.

These are onion-shaped end organs containing nearly 60-150 cells.

It functions in a dynamic system; that is, the cells are born, mature, perform their sensory function, and die. This is a continuous process. Hence, there is a development or regeneration of new taste buds every ten days to 2 weeks.

An adult human tongue contains 2000-8000 taste buds.

Taste Buds | OMM | Dr Paridhi Agrawal

Anatomically, the taste buds are round and tiny bumps situated in the small bumps present on our tongue, called Papillae.

Functionally, the sensory cells or the receptor cells making up the taste buds report the sense of taste to the brain. The human brain is able to detect five basic tastes-

  1. Sweet
  2. Salty
  3. Bitter
  4. Sour
  5. Umami or Savory

Also, cold and hot are the two taste sensations that the brain can perceive. However, these do not refer to high or low temperatures.

An example can make this more understandable. Cool flavors come from substances like mint or menthol, and hot flavors come from something like black and hot peppers.

Although every human tongue consists of all these taste buds, not every individual tastes things similarly.

On the other hand, any disruption to the taste receptor cells can affect one’s ability to taste foods. This disruption can be due to many reasons leaving the taste buds swollen and inflamed. Swollen tastebud ultimately results in a swollen tongue. In this case, you want to know why are my taste buds swollen. 

To know the detail about it, scroll down and get the answer as well as more information regarding irritated taste buds. 

2. What Can Cause A Swollen Taste Bud?

2.1. Acid Reflux or Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease

Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease | GERD | Retired

Gastroesophageal reflux disease causes stomach acid to flow back from the tube connecting the mouth and the stomach (esophagus). If this acid makes its way to the mouth, it can burn the papillae consisting of taste buds present on the tongue leading to inflamed taste buds.

Hence, foods that are known to cause the risk of acid reflux like fatty, spicy, or acidic foods should be avoided. Such foods also exacerbate reflux of the acid from the stomach backward.

Also, anti-reflux medications like Omeprazole 1and dietary changes can reduce the risk of GERD and hence, swollen taste buds.

2.2. Swollen Taste Bud: Burning The Mouth

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Image by Tumisu from Pixabay

Extremes of temperature can damage the taste buds and can swell them up. As a result taste bud sores. That is, when something that is extremely hot or cold is consumed, it results in the swelling of the taste buds. This usually heals within a few days and requires no treatment as such.

2.3. Swollen Taste Bud: A Brewing Infection

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Image by Mohamed Hassan from Pixabay

It is a rare condition when the taste buds swell up due to bacterial or viral infections.

Scarlet Fever is a type of bacterial infection that is one of the major causes of inflamed taste buds. It is characterized by bright red rashes on the body, high fever, swollen tonsils, and sore throat. The tongue looks like a strawberry after bacterial affection.

Antibiotics are the treatment of choice.

2.4. Swollen Taste Bud: A Poor Oral Hygiene

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Image by Steve Buissinne from Pixabay

Insufficient and improper brushing and flossing techniques lead to plaque formation. Plaque 2is a layer of bacteria formed over the surfaces of the teeth. This leads to infection of the taste buds with bacteria and viruses, resulting in inflamed taste buds.

Maintaining good oral hygiene, brushing the top of the tongue, and making use of mouthwashes can help us get rid of taste bud swelling.

2.5. Swollen Taste Bud: Oral or Tongue Cancer

Rarely, oral cancer may be present with swollen papillae or swollen taste buds. It may be present as a large bump on the side of the tongue, which bleeds easily even while brushing.

It most commonly occurs in smokers and heavy drinkers. If an ulcer is found over the tongue, which does not heal within two weeks, immediately see a doctor and seek medical treatment.

2.6. Swollen Taste Bud: A Dry Mouth

For proper functioning, taste buds require a moist environment. Hence, a dry mouth makes the taste buds irritated and inflamed.

Also, it can lead to the overgrowth of bacteria, and as learned before, any bacterial illness leads to an inflamed taste bud. Hydration thus is important.

2.7. Frequent Consumption of Spicy and Acidic Foods

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Image by Ryan McGuire from Pixabay

Certain foods like hot peppers or citrus fruits which are very spicy or acidic, may irritate the taste buds and cause them to swell. Drinking milk may help soothe the inflamed area. Also, such foods are responsible for causing acid reflux3 and thus, should be avoided.

2.8. Swollen Taste Bud: Transient Lingual Papillitis

This is a harmless condition in which taste buds swell and appear as small red or white bumps on the back upper surface of the tongue, which may not be visible to the naked eye.

These are tiny round bumps. The cause of this condition is not yet known. It usually resolves itself within a few days without any treatment.

2.9. Swollen Taste Bud:  Irritations

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Photo by engin akyurt on Unsplash

The presence of loose teeth, dentures, or braces may rub against the papillae4 and irritate them, resulting in the irritation of taste buds and causing swollen taste buds. Such placement should be managed.

2.10. Swollen Taste Bud:  Allergies and Food Sensitivities

Certain foods and substances may lead to irritation and inflammation of taste buds.

2.11. Some Other Causes Of A Swollen Taste Bud

  • Alcoholism
  • Smoking
  • Stress
  • Vitamin deficiencies like lack of iron or vitamin B
  • Burns, cuts, or injuries to the mouth

3. How Can We Get Rid Of A Swollen Taste Bud?

  • Antacids or proton pump inhibitors help to block stomach acid and relieve the burning sensation. 
  • Antibiotic medication to prevent bacterial infections.
  • Avoid foods and certain medications triggering allergies.
  • Avoid spicy and fatty foods.
  • Go for cold foods rather than hot ones.
  • Quit smoking and alcoholism.
  • Practice good oral hygiene.
  • Using artificial saliva mouth sprays.
  • Gargle with a mixture of warm water and salt frequently. Warm salt water helps in keeping the mouth clean, and salt has natural healing properties.
  • Making use of mouthwashes.
  • Oral cancer is an emergency and requires immediate treatment, or else it may cause a severe problem and may prove to be fatal.

A compromised taste of sense can affect the person’s appetite, enjoyment of food, and unwanted weight loss. So it is necessary to find the underlying cause of a swollen taste bud, go through the health history and take advice from a healthcare professional if swollen taste buds and other symptoms related to it are present.

4. Conclusion

In conclusion, swollen taste buds, also known as transient lingual papillitis or “lie bumps,” are a common and usually harmless occurrence that can cause discomfort or mild pain in the mouth. These small, raised bumps on the tongue are often the result of minor irritation, such as spicy or acidic foods, accidental biting, or even hormonal changes. While they might be uncomfortable, swollen taste buds typically resolve on their own within a few days without the need for medical intervention.

Maintaining good oral hygiene and avoiding known irritants can help prevent the occurrence of swollen taste buds. If the swelling persists for an extended period, becomes increasingly painful, or is accompanied by other concerning symptoms, it’s advisable to consult a healthcare professional or a dentist for proper evaluation and guidance.


1. Can I pop a swollen taste bud?

A. It’s not recommended to pop or pick at swollen taste buds. Doing so can introduce bacteria and increase the risk of infection. Instead, allow them to heal naturally.

2. What can I do to alleviate the discomfort of swollen taste buds?

A.  You can try rinsing your mouth with warm saltwater, avoiding spicy or acidic foods, consuming cool or soft foods, and practicing good oral hygiene to alleviate discomfort.

3. Can allergies cause swollen taste buds?

A. Yes, allergies can sometimes lead to swollen taste buds. Certain allergens, like certain foods or medications, can cause irritation and inflammation in the mouth, leading to swollen taste buds.

Read more

Proofreaded by:

Dr. Foram Bhuta

Dentist (B.D.S)


  1. Paz, Márcia Fernanda Correia Jardim, et al. “Pharmacological effects and toxicogenetic impacts of omeprazole: genomic instability and cancer.” Oxidative medicine and cellular longevity 2020 (2020). ↩︎
  2. Jakubovics, Nicholas S., et al. “The dental plaque biofilm matrix.” Periodontology 2000 86.1 (2021): 32-56. ↩︎
  3. Fass, Ronnie, et al. “Gastro-oesophageal reflux disease.” Nature reviews Disease primers 7.1 (2021): 55. ↩︎
  4. Zhang, Yiding, et al. “Minimally invasive procedures for deficient interdental papillae: A review.” Journal of Esthetic and Restorative Dentistry 32.5 (2020): 463-471. ↩︎

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Muskan Meghani

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