Life would seem very strange without our taste buds. If we did not have them, we would lack the ability to taste sweetness, sourness, saltiness, and bitterness. We would be at a loss to distinguish between a teaspoon of salt and a teaspoon of sugar by taste.
Many of us tend to be so used to having properly functioning taste buds that we take them for granted. The fact of the matter, however, is that we need to take care of our taste buds. It is important to try to prevent them from becoming swollen and injured, and to address the problem immediately if it does arise.
When our taste buds are irritated and inflamed, their ability to function is compromised. Swollen taste buds also tend to be sore and painful.
Do you have small white or red bumps on your tongue? Most of us suffer from this condition at some point in our lives. Swollen taste buds are harmless, but they can be painful. It’s not always clear why we have them, but correct identification of the root cause is important to find the right remedy. In this article, we will discuss swollen taste buds causes and remedies. This will include an overview of the numerous causes of swollen taste buds, as well as an exploration of home remedies for this troublesome condition.
- 1 Where are Taste Buds Located?
- 2 What are Swollen Taste Buds?
- 3 Symptoms of Inflamed Taste Buds
- 4 Swollen Taste Buds Causes?
- 4.1 Physical Trauma
- 4.2 Hormone Fluctuations
- 4.3 Nutritional Deficiencies
- 4.4 Vitamin B Complex and/or Vitamin C Deficiencies
- 4.5 Oral Care Products
- 4.6 Carcinoma
- 4.7 Mouth Ulcers
- 4.8 Smoking of Traditional or Electronic Cigarettes
- 4.9 Tongue Brushing that is too Vigorous
- 4.10 Acid Reflux
- 4.11 Heat
- 4.12 Spicy Food
- 4.13 Very Acidic Food or Drink
- 4.14 Alcohol
- 4.15 Oral Thrush Infection
- 4.16 Other Kinds of Infection
- 4.17 Food Allergy
- 4.18 Radiation Therapy
- 4.19 Dentures That Do Not Fit Properly
- 5 Home Treatments for Swollen Taste Buds
- 5.1 Cold Therapy
- 5.2 Garlic
- 5.3 Baking Soda
- 5.4 Glycerin
- 5.5 Honey
- 5.6 Correct Amount of Vitamins B Complex and C
- 5.7 Avoid Dry Mouth
- 5.8 Take Probiotics
- 5.9 Tea Tree Oil Mouth Rinse
- 5.10 Sea Salt Mouth Rinses
- 5.11 Evaluate and Fix Your Diet
- 5.12 Chamomile Tea
- 5.13 Iced Ginger Tea
- 5.14 Guava Fruit and Leaves
- 5.15 Proper Tongue Cleaning
- 5.16 Aloe vera
- 5.17 Garden Sage (Salvia officinalis)
- 5.18 Conclusion
Where are Taste Buds Located?
Taste buds have receptors that are situated around the upper surface of the tongue, upper esophagus, soft palate, epiglottis, and the cheek. They detect the five taste elements of taste such as bitter, sweet, sour, umami, and salty. These combinations help us to detect various flavors.
Mostly, taste buds lay on raised area of the tongue called papillae. There are four types of papillae in the human tongue:
- Filiform papillae
- Circumvallate papillae
- Foliate papillae
- Fungiform papillae
Taste buds are only available in soft palate, fungiform, foliate, and circumvallate papillae. They are absent in filiform papillae.
Generally, the human tongue has approximately 2000-8000 taste buds.
What are Swollen Taste Buds?
Inflamed taste buds are larger or distended taste buds which refer to swollen foliate, fungiform, and circumvallate papillae. The swelling can be in the back of tongue, the tip of tongue, on the side of the tongue, on the soft palate or on the cheek.
Symptoms of Inflamed Taste Buds
Inflamed taste buds are small and painful bumps. The papillae may appear longer, irritated and inflamed with a rough surface. You may also experience redness or other color changes of the tongue, loss of taste, sore throat, pain, and white or red bumps on the tongue.
Swollen Taste Buds Causes?
You might know swollen taste buds as “lie bumps,” or transient lingual papillitis (TLP) in medical jargon. This condition usually causes painful, swollen, red and white nipple-like structures (fungiform papillae) on your tongue’s surface.
Although it’s common, there aren’t enough clinical studies or articles that discuss this condition. That’s why it’s a little difficult to come up with a definite root cause.
Here are some possible causes of lie bumps:
Lie bumps are often the result of a direct physical irritation. This could be due to accidental biting, foods that are too spicy or too hot, or excessive cleaning of the tongue.
Since it’s painful, your first instinct would be to rub your tongue across your teeth to ease the pain. That’s a big no-no! It would only further irritate and hurt your swollen taste buds.
Oral health issues are more common in women because of the hormonal fluctuations they normally experience during their monthly period and pregnancy. Specifically, the surge in progesterone levels change the blood supply and the way the tongue, gums, and teeth respond to irritants from a plaque buildup. This could result to canker sores, bleeding gums, and swollen taste buds or gums, among others.
Lie bumps could be a sign that you have food intolerance or deficient of certain nutrients. Make sure to consult your doctor to get a thorough evaluation.
Vitamin B Complex and/or Vitamin C Deficiencies
Talk to your doctor about how much vitamin B complex and vitamin C you need, and ascertain whether you are currently getting enough of these vitamins. Take vitamin B and vitamin C supplements in order to address this deficiency. In the meantime, make sure to try some of the home remedies listed later in the article.
Oral Care Products
Oral care products, like alcohol-based mouthwashes and toothpastes, are often to blame for inflamed taste buds. Some people in the Consumer Affairs.com forum find Colgate toothpaste to be highly irritating to the tongue. Commercial toothpastes contain different ingredients, like flavorings and sodium lauryl sulfate, which could cause an allergic reaction.
If your mouthwash is excessively strong and you think that this is the case, perhaps consider changing your mouthwash.
Carcinoma is a specific kind of cancer. Carcinoma always begins in bodily tissue, specifically tissue that lines inner and outer surfaces. If you think you might have carcinoma, make certain to visit your doctor as quickly as you possibly can.
A mouth ulcer is an ulcer that appears in the oral cavity’s mucous membrane. Mouth ulcers have many different possible causes. If you think that a mouth ulcer has become infected, make sure to see your doctor. Mouth ulcers can cause swollen taste buds.
Smoking of Traditional or Electronic Cigarettes
Lie bumps and other mouth irritations are more frequent among individuals who smoke vapers and e-cigarettes. It’s really not clear why smokers experience this condition. If you have recurring lie bumps and you smoke, the most logical way to solve this problem is to quit smoking.
While you are in the process of doing so, many of the home remedies listed later in this article should be helpful in soothing your taste buds as much as possible.
Tongue Brushing that is too Vigorous
Brushing the tongue is necessary and beneficial, and is an important part of oral hygiene and health. However, you need to ensure that you are gentle in doing so. If you brush your teeth in too vigorous of a way, you risk irritating and inflaming the taste buds.
If you experience the problem of acid reflux, it is possible that this is causing your swollen taste buds. If this is the case, treating and helping to reduce the extent of your acid reflux will help to reduce the inflammation of your taste buds. Baking soda will also probably be helpful if consuming acidic foods or drinks has led to your taste bud swelling.
Drinking too hot of a liquid or eating too hot of a food can cause injury to your tongue. This kind of injury is very likely to inflame your taste buds. One of the most effective home remedies for taste bud inflammation caused by heat is the application of ice.
Many people do not realize that eating spicy food can irritate the skin and cause swollen taste buds. Try to reduce the level of heat and spiciness in your foods. If you are going to have chili or salsa, make it the mild rather than strong version.
Very Acidic Food or Drink
Drinks and foods high in acidity can irritate the tongue, leading to inflammation of the taste buds. Examples of high acidity drinks and foods include orange juice, oranges, lemon juice, apple juice, and certain kinds of candy. Baking soda is an especially effective home remedy to use when such acidity adversely affects your taste buds.
Alcoholic drinks (especially the stronger kinds) can cause tongue irritation and tongue bud inflammation. If you feel that alcohol is causing your taste bud inflammation, try to cut back on your level of alcohol consumption. You should also try one or more of the home remedies we discuss later in this article.
Oral Thrush Infection
Thrush infection of the mouth is caused by candida. We all have candida in our bodies, but when our immune system is in some way compromised, the candida overgrows and causes problems. Below are some of the most common symptoms of thrush mouth infection: possibly painful bumps that are a creamy white in color, dryness at the corners of the mouth, and problems with swallowing. Thrush infections are often linked to a weakened immune system. This can be caused by severe stress, illness, and many other factors. The most effective home remedies for oral thrush include garlic, probiotics, tea tree oil (diluted in water, and used as a rinse), and salt solution rinse. Make sure to see this article’s section on home remedies for important instructions on how to use these remedies.
Other Kinds of Infection
If you suspect that oral thrush or another kind of infection is causing the inflammation of your taste buds, make sure to see your doctor. In the meantime, some of the home remedies we list later in the article will likely be helpful in alleviating the symptoms. Anti-bacterial home remedies such as garlic, probiotics, tea tree oil (diluted in water, and used as a rinse), and salt solution rinse will be especially helpful.
If you have eaten a food to which you have an allergy, this might be the cause of your swollen taste buds. Make sure to check the ingredients of your foods carefully. Use one or more of the home remedies we discuss later to help soothe your symptoms while they last.
Radiation therapy can cause taste bud swelling. If you are having radiation therapy, it is possible that it is the cause of your swollen taste buds. Try some of the home remedies we describe below to help soothe the effects on your taste buds.
Dentures That Do Not Fit Properly
If you are wearing dentures that do not fit properly, it is very possible that this is the cause of your swollen taste buds. This is because of the significant surface irritation that badly fitting dentures can cause. In addition to making sure that your dentures fit properly, it is also vital to ensure that you are maintaining them in a hygienic manner. This is crucial to ensure that you are not unnecessarily introducing potentially harmful bacteria into your mouth.
Home Treatments for Swollen Taste Buds
Below are a number of excellent home remedies for swollen taste buds. You can use one or several of these remedies to help alleviate your taste bud inflammation. As mentioned earlier, if you feel that your taste bud inflammation is caused (even partly) or aggravated by bacteria, focus most on the remedies with anti-bacterial properties (such as garlic, probiotics, tea tree oil rinse, and salt solution rinse, as described below). In addition to the anti-bacterial remedies, you will also find several substances that are useful to soothing the area.
The wonderful thing about many of these remedies is that they are probably already in your kitchen!
Cold therapy is the easiest way to ease the pain temporarily. This works because it decreases the blood flow to the affected area, which in turn decreases swelling.
There are different ways you could do this:
- Suck on a few crushed ice cubes.
- Get one ice cube and gently apply it on the part of your tongue with swollen taste buds.
Make sure the ice doesn’t stay on your tongue for more than 2 to 3 minutes at a time to prevent cold burn. Repeat this process as often as necessary.
Garlic is an incredible natural antibacterial. Eating garlic and massaging garlic into your swollen taste buds will help to assuage the swelling of your taste buds, especially if bacteria is involved in any way. Try to apply the garlic to your swollen taste buds at least two or three times a day until the problem is resolved.
Gently massaging a baking soda paste into your tongue (baking soda mixed with a tiny bit of water, so it has a pasty consistency) will help to soothe the inflammation of your taste buds. One reason why baking soda is helpful is because it helps neutralize acid, such as the gastric acid that can get in your mouth as a result of acid reflux. Make sure to apply baking soda in this way two or three times daily until the problem is resolved.
Try massaging a small amount of glycerin into your swollen taste buds. This method often works best when paired with one of the others. Glycerin will aid in the healing process.
Apply and rub honey into your tongue. Honey is a wonderful natural healer, and has anti-bacterial properties. It has been used for thousands of years in this way.
Correct Amount of Vitamins B Complex and C
Take the recommended doses of vitamins B complex and C, in order to correct any deficiency in these areas.
Avoid Dry Mouth
Make sure to stay well-hydrated in order to avoid dry mouth. Dry mouth can make you more prone to inflamed taste buds. One reason for this is the fact that bacteria thrives in this kind of oral environment. Check to see if any of the medications you are on can cause dry mouth. If you find that one of them does have this effect, make sure to drink extra water to help make up for this.
Probiotics are wonderfully helpful in many areas of human health, and oral health is no exception. Probiotics are the “good bacteria” your body needs in order to effectively fight off bad and detrimental bacteria, such as bacteria that might be contributing to your taste bud inflammation. Do not underestimate how effective probiotics can be. Many people are amazed at how much of a difference it can make in a wide variety of areas. Probiotics can be purchased at health food stores and drug stores.
Tea Tree Oil Mouth Rinse
If you want to use this remedy, be careful. Using too much tea tree oil might make you very sick! Just add a few drops of tea tree oil to warm water, and use this mixture as a mouth wash, ensuring that you do not swallow any of it. Tea tree oil is a highly effective anti-bacterial substance, and thus will help kill bacteria that is contributing to the inflammation and swelling of your taste buds. Tea tree oil can be purchased at health food stores and some drug stores.
Sea Salt Mouth Rinses
Gargling salt in warm water is a favorite remedy for sore throat because it helps ease inflammation by drawing out excess water. Sea salt in particular is more beneficial than regular table salt because it contains magnesium, which is responsible for its anti-inflammatory action. 
There are different versions of the correct salt to water ratio. According to Mayo Clinic, a good ratio to follow is ¼ to ½ teaspoon of table salt and 8 ounces of warm water.
Evaluate and Fix Your Diet
As mentioned earlier, a poor diet could increase your risk for swollen taste buds. It’s important to evaluate your current diet and fortify your meals with different nutrients, particularly iron and B vitamins, to prevent further occurrence of this condition.
- Sea foods (mollusks, clams, mussels, oysters, crabs, wild salmon, and tuna)
- Chicken (thighs) and chicken liver
- Beef and beef liver
- Fortified cereals
- Green leafy veggies
- Green peas
- Turkey Breast
Identifying and fixing nutritional deficiencies can be tricky. Let your doctor examine you first before taking any dietary supplements or trying diet programs.
Chamomile tea is not only calming, but it also earned the reputation of being an “herbal aspirin.” Some people often combine chamomile with other anti-inflammatory foods to ease toothache, facial swelling, skin diseases, and underlying inflammatory conditions.
How to use chamomile tea for treating swollen taste buds:
- Place one tea bag or 3 teaspoons of dried chamomile herb in 8 ounces of boiled water. Allow it to steep for 10 minutes.
- After it has cooled down, gargle for 30 to 60 seconds then spit it out. You can repeat this process as often as you want. Study shows that rinsing with chamomile twice daily for a month yield good results. 
Iced Ginger Tea
Ginger is another all-natural pain reliever you could add to your list. In fact, it’s as equally effective as over-the-counter pain medicines, like mefenamic acid and ibuprofen. 
How to use ginger tea for swollen taste buds:
- Pour 2 to 3 ounces of chopped ginger to 32 ounces of freshly boiled water.
- Leave it alone for 10 minutes, and then pour the infusion into an ice cube tray.
- After it has frozen, take one and place directly on your tongue for a minute or less.
Ginger doesn’t usually produce serious side effects. If it does, you’ll most probably experience stomach-related discomforts and menstrual bleeding.
Guava Fruit and Leaves
Guava, including its fruits, bark, and leaves, are widely used in folk medicine in most Asian countries. It has numerous health benefits, one of which is its ability to reduce inflammation by stopping the release of pro-inflammatory compounds (kinins, prostaglandin, and histamine). This anti-inflammatory action of guava might be due to its high amounts of lycopene.
What’s more, guava leaf mouthwash is also an effective canker sore remedy. A study has shown that it’s able to shrink the size of canker sores and ease the pain that comes with the condition. 
How to use guava for swollen taste buds:
- To make your own guava mouthwash, all you have to do is boil 5 young guava leaves in 3 cups of water for 10 minutes. Let it cool down a little before adding a pinch of salt. Strain then gargle at least twice a day.
- To maintain good oral health, you can just chew two young guava leaves daily.
Proper Tongue Cleaning
Tongue cleaning can be challenging and painful when you have swollen taste buds. However, it wouldn’t be a great idea to skip this essential oral hygiene practice. Just make sure you apply light pressure on your tongue to avoid further irritation or recurrence of lie bumps.
Additional tongue cleaning tips and reminders:
- Use a small amount of natural oils, like coconut oil, and vegetable glycerin. They can help decrease the pain and further irritation of your taste buds.
- Gargle with a saltwater solution (preferably with ¼ teaspoon of salt) before and after cleaning your tongue to kill opportunistic germs living in your mouth.
- Start scraping at the back and middle of your tongue, and then gently move your tongue scraper forward using one stroke. You can do this twice if there’s a lot of coating.
The aloe vera plant is an inexpensive and effective solution to many oral problems. Studies have shown that it contains medicinal properties that help treat canker sores, viral-related infections, cold sores, and recurring itchy and inflamed skin or mouth rashes. One of these active medicinal properties in aloe is glycoproteins, a group of proteins, which speed up healing and reduce pain and inflammation. 
Raw aloe vera can be irritating to the mouth if it’s not prepared well. It would be better to use commercial preparations, like an organic aloe vera-based toothpaste or mouthwash, to treat your swollen taste buds.
Garden Sage (Salvia officinalis)
Herbalists use garden sage for a variety of conditions, like sore throat, infection, pain, and inflammation. Most of its health-promoting effects are due to its volatile oils.
How to use sage for treating swollen taste buds:
- Boil 9 large sage leaves (or one teaspoon of dried sage) in 4 cups of water for 2 to 3 minutes, and then boil for another 4 minutes. Strain and let the infusion to cool down. Gargle with this solution for a full 60 seconds after you brush your teeth.
There is no doubt that inflamed taste buds are a painful and problematic condition, but there is no need to suffer! The home remedies you have learned about in this article will help you both soothe and resolve the swelling
In most cases, swollen taste buds don’t require any intervention from you or your doctor. They’ll usually go away in around a week.
What are your thoughts on swollen taste buds? Do you have any quick remedies that have worked for you? I’d love to hear them!