Bumps On The Back Of The Tongue

The tongue is a fascinating organ, playing a fundamental role in our sense of taste, speech, and digestion. However, bumps on the back of the tongue may cause discomfort and raise concern. In this article, we will cover everything there is to know about them, starting with what they are and what types of bumps one may find on the back of the tongue.

What Are The Bumps On The Back Of Your Tongue?

When we refer to bumps on the back of the tongue, we are talking about papillae. These are small, raised structures that line the surface of the tongue, giving it its characteristic rough texture. Papillae house our taste buds, which are responsible for detecting different flavors.

However, sometimes these papillae can become inflamed and enlarged, leading to the appearance of larger bumps on the back of the tongue. This can be caused by a variety of factors, including smoking, allergies, infections, or even just irritation from spicy or acidic foods. If you notice persistent bumps on your tongue or other unusual symptoms, it’s important to consult with a healthcare professional to determine the underlying cause and appropriate treatment.

What Types Of Bumps Are On My Tongue?

There are four different types of papillae on the tongue:

  1. Fungiform papillae – mushroom-shaped and red in color, they are located mainly on the tip and sides of the tongue
  2. Foliate papillae – leaf-shaped and located at the rear of the tongue
  3. Circumvallate papillae – large and round, they are located at the back of the tongue in a V-shape
  4. Filiform papillae – long, thin, and thread-like, they are located all over the tongue and do not contain taste buds

When these papillae become inflamed or irritated, bumps may appear, causing discomfort and making it difficult to eat or speak.

It is important to note that not all bumps on the tongue are caused by inflamed papillae. Other possible causes of bumps on the tongue include canker sores, oral thrush, and oral cancer. If you have persistent bumps on your tongue or other symptoms such as pain or difficulty swallowing, it is important to see a healthcare professional for an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment.

10 Causes For Bumps On The Back Of Your Tongue

  1. Allergies – an allergic reaction can cause bumps on the back of the tongue, along with other symptoms such as itching, hives, and difficulty breathing.
  2. Oral thrush – a fungal infection that may cause white or red bumps on the tongue, often due to a weakened immune system.
  3. Canker sores – painful round sores that may have a yellow or white center and red border that can also be a common bump on the roof of your mouth
  4. Oral herpes – small, fluid-filled blisters that can form in the mouth and on the tongue
  5. Geographic tongue – a harmless condition that causes patches of the tongue to appear smooth and bright red, leading to the formation of bumps
  6. Cold sores – painful, fluid-filled blisters that appear on or around the lips and inside the mouth
  7. Injuries – biting the tongue or burning it with hot foods or beverages can cause bumps to form
  8. Smoking – tobacco use can cause irritation and inflammation of the tongue, leading to bumps and other discomforts
  9. Nutrient deficiencies – a lack of certain vitamins and minerals can affect the health of the tongue, leading to bumps and other symptoms
  10. Medical conditions – certain medical conditions such as HIV and diabetes can cause symptoms that affect the tongue, including bumps.

It is important to note that bumps on the back of the tongue can also be a result of oral cancer. If you notice any unusual bumps or changes in your tongue, it is important to consult with a healthcare professional for proper diagnosis and treatment.

Covid-19: As we all know, Covid-19 affects everyone’s mouth a little differently. Some people have lost the ability to taste, some have had a completely altered sense of taste, professionals have hypothesized that these changes are due to the effects the virus has on the facial nerves. Medical professionals have noted changes in the oral cavity including fissured tongues, enlarged tonsils, and altered tongue papillae. Not many treatments have been thoroughly tested, but some physicians have prescribed salt water rinses or they might just tell you to let the virus run its course.

Treatment For Bumps On The Back Of The Tongue

The treatment for bumps on the back of the tongue will depend on the underlying cause. Some treatments may include:

  • Antibiotics or antifungal medication 
  • Mouth rinses or gels to reduce inflammation
  • Foods rich in vitamins and minerals to boost the immune system
  • Cool, soothing liquids like milk or water to alleviate symptoms
  • Pain relievers like ibuprofen to decrease pain and inflammation
  • If symptoms persist or become severe, it is important to seek medical attention from a healthcare provider.

In addition to the above treatments, it is important to practice good oral hygiene to prevent further irritation or infection. This includes brushing your teeth twice a day, flossing daily, and using an antiseptic mouthwash. Avoiding spicy or acidic foods and drinks may also help to reduce discomfort. If the bumps on the back of your tongue are caused by a viral infection, such as the common cold, rest and staying hydrated can also aid in the healing process.

How To Prevent Bumps On The Back Of The Tongue

Although some causes may be out of our control, there are some steps we can take to reduce the risk of bumps on the back of the tongue:

  • Practice good oral hygiene by brushing twice daily and flossing regularly
  • Avoid smoking or tobacco use
  • Avoid spicy or acidic foods that may irritate the tongue
  • Stay hydrated to keep the mouth moist and reduce inflammation
  • Be mindful when eating and drinking to avoid accidental injury to the tongue

In conclusion, bumps on the back of the tongue may be a cause of discomfort and concern. Knowing the different types of bumps, their causes, and how to prevent them can help us maintain a healthy tongue and mouth. Remember, if symptoms persist or become severe, seek medical attention from a healthcare professional.

Additionally, it is important to maintain a healthy immune system to prevent infections that may lead to bumps on the back of the tongue. This can be achieved by eating a balanced diet, getting enough sleep, and exercising regularly.


All Second Opinion Dentist content is medically reviewed and fact-checked by a licensed dentist to ensure the information is factual, current, and relevant.

  1. Tongue: Definition, Location, Anatomy & Function. (n.d.). Cleveland Clinic. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/body/22845-tongue
  2. Tongue problems: MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia. (n.d.). Medlineplus.gov. https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/003047.htm
  3. Geographic tongue – Symptoms and causes. (2018). Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/geographic-tongue/symptoms-causes/syc-20354396
  4. Canker sore: MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia. (n.d.). Medlineplus.gov. Retrieved March 18, 2023, from https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/000998.htm

About the author

Dr. Latecia Miller is a board-certified dentist and graduate of The University of Utah School of Dentistry. She has several years of clinical practice experience across a wide variety of cases, treatment, and research. Dr. Miller's primary goal is to spread her love of dental health to her patients and the public.