Growing up with pimples on your face is never easy, but how about living with a pimple on your tongue as an adult?
A painful pimple on the tongue (1) is also known as a “lie bump”; in medical jargon, it’s called transient lingual papillitis.
These pimples will often appear red or white, however, the color will largely depend on the cause.
You will often find a painful bump on the tongue when there is an irritation or inflammation of the fungiform papillae; this is the area of the tongue that hosts your taste buds.Pimples on the tongue are common in children and adults.
Types of Pimples on the Tongue: Signs and Symptoms
Pimples on the tongue come in different shades and sizes: they can be white, yellow, red, or black, and they can appear anywhere. You can even get a pimple on the tip of the tongue. Here is a little more about the types of pimples you may find.
1. Yellow Pimple
A yellow pimple on the tongue could be a cold sore, or even oral herpes. This painful yellow pimple will appear on your tongue, lips, or mouth. It’s a sexually transmitted disease that will often cause red blisters, which then turn into a yellow crust when they dry. Canker sores can also look yellow, and are surrounded by a red outline.
2. White Pimple
It’s quite possible to have white pimples on any part of the tongue. A white pimple on the tongue tip can be scattered or clustered, large or small, and you may find many or you may find just one. The main causes of white tongue pimples are leukoplakia, oral lichen planus, canker sores, and oral thrush. You may also get them from dental appliances, tongue piercings, or from biting or burning your tongue.
3. Side Pimple
A pimple on the side of your tongue is often the result of oral herpes, oral thrush, fibroma, allergic reactions, canker sores, oral lichen planus, fibroma, and nutritional deficiencies. A pimple on the side of the tongue can appear on either side, and can look red, yellow, white, or black.
4. Red Pimple
Cold sores are the most common cause of a red pimple on the tongue. A red blister on the tongue is swollen, and may break open and leak a clear fluid that forms a scab after a few days. Other causes of a red pimple on the tongue include canker sores and Kawasaki syndrome.
5. Black Pimple
Are black spots on your tongue something to worry about? This condition has multiple causes such as allergic reactions, black hairy tongue, oral cancer, tongue piercing, oral fibroma, hyperpigmentation, and tongue trauma or injury.
6. Tip of Tongue
A pimple on tip of the tongue is really just like any tongue pimple. These pimples can be white, red, big, small, painless, or painful. Tongue-tip pimples share many causes of other tongue pimples, such as cold sores or canker sores.
7. Back of Tongue
A pimple on the back of your tongue may be a different story. You may have red, white, big, or small bumps at the back of your tongue. Some of the possible causes include Kawasaki syndrome, leukoplakia, oral thrush, scarlet fever, allergies, or canker sores.
What Are the Causes of a Pimple on the Tongue?
As mentioned, many types of pimples can appear on your tongue. The following is a detailed description of their potential causes.
A pimple on the tongue can be a symptom of food allergies. Certain foods, mouth or lip-care products, and medications can all cause allergic reactions, and pimples on your tongue may occur as an immune response.
2. Tongue Injuries or Trauma
Pimples on the tongue can also form due to accidental tongue injuries or trauma such as tongue biting, eating hard or tough food, dental appliances such as braces, and tongue piercings. Tongue traumas or injuries will bruise or irritate your tongue, and cause a painful bump on the tongue, especially on the tip or the side. As they begin to heal, these tongue pimples will appear white.
3. Oral Thrush
Oral thrush is also called oral Candida or a fungal infection. Oral thrush will release red pimples as a reaction from your taste buds being irritated. In the case of oral thrush, red pimples on the tongue can be found on the sides, tip, or back of your tongue.
4. Viral Infections or STDs
There are a variety of viral infections that can lead to white pimples on the tongue, lips, and other areas of the mouth. Some of these viral infections include the flu, cold sores, and oral herpes. A pimple on the tongue due to oral herpes tends to ooze a clear pus-like liquid. Other flu-like symptoms may also accompany a pimple on the tongue, including a fever, a sore throat, dry cough, fatigue, and weakness.
5. Canker Sores
A canker sore, or mouth ulcer, is a small lesion that often develops at the base of the gums or on tissues in your mouth. Canker sores appear somewhat like pimples, and can make eating and talking difficult. Potential causes of tongue cankers include food allergies, stress, nutritional deficiencies, viral infections, or hormonal changes.
6. Oral Cancer
Stubborn frequent and swollen pimples on the tongue could be a sign of oral cancer. Other oral cancer symptoms include unexplained bleeding in the mouth, unexplained numbness of the mouth, dramatic weight loss, ear pain, and difficulty swallowing or chewing.
7. Kawasaki Disease
Kawasaki disease, also called mucocutaneous lymph node syndrome, produces large red bumps on the back of the tongue. Aside from these bumps, Kawasaki disease also affects the lymph nodes, mucous membranes in the mouth, and the skin. Other symptoms of Kawasaki disease include bloodshot eyes, abdominal pain, diarrhea, vomiting, cracked lips, joint pain, a fever, and redness of the palms and soles.
In leukoplakia, thick white patches or pimples form on your tongue, on the insides your cheeks, or on the bottom of the mouth. Chewing or smoking tobacco is thought to be a key cause of leukoplakia, and some leukoplakia patches are an early sign of cancer. Leukoplakia usually affects people with a weak immune system due to medications or conditions such as HIV/AIDS.
9. Hairy Black Tongue
Hairy black tongue is caused by a buildup of bacteria or yeast on the tongue. Black, white, or yellow discolorations are common with hairy black tongue. Other symptoms will include bad breath, a metallic taste in the mouth, a tickling or gagging sensation in the mouth, and the namesake a hairy appearance of the tongue.
10. Oral Lichen Planus
Oral lichen planus is an inflammatory condition that affects the mucous membranes of your mouth. White and red patches on the tongue are common with oral lichen planus. These lesions can also occur on the gums, inside the cheeks, and on the inner tissues of the lips. Causes of oral lichen planus include certain medications, infections, mouth injuries, and allergies to dental materials.
Other Causes of Tongue Pimples
Other causes include inflamed and swollen lingual papillae, clogged tongue skin, digestive problems, poor oral hygiene, and stress.
Pimple on the Tongue Treatment: Natural Remedies
Although that pimple on your tongue is not life-threatening, it’s something you should get under control. Here’s how to treat a pimple on the tongue (3).
1. Gargle with Salt Water
An efficient way to get rid of tongue bumps is to gargle with a warm salt water solution. How do you gargle with salt water? Simply dissolve a half-teaspoon of course, Celtic sea salt in a glass of warm water, then gargle for 30 seconds before spitting it out. Swish the salt water around in your mouth after every meal, or until the bumps on the tongue disappear.
2. Keep Hydrated
Keeping well hydrated can help soothe the bumps on the tongue and reduce inflammation. It’s a good idea to drink eight to 10 eight-ounce glasses of water daily to help relieve discomfort.
3. Maintain Proper Oral Health
When there are pimples on the tongue, proper oral hygiene is a must. Your oral hygiene routine should include brushing your teeth and gums, especially after meals. A metal or copper tongue scraper should then be used after brushing to help remove bacteria or other debris from the tongue. Finally, antibacterial mouthwash can help with your overall oral hygiene. Natural mouthwashes include essential oils such as thyme oil, eucalyptus oil, lavender oil, cinnamon oil, and peppermint oil.
4. Herbal Supplementation
There are a number of herbs that can help relieve a painful pimple on the tongue. For example, berberine-containing plants such as goldenseal and goldthread can treat tongue pimples due to oral thrush. Other herbs that can treat tongue pimples include elderberry, astragalus, oregano oil, Echinacea, and fernleaf biscuitroot.
Certain homeopathic remedies can also treat pimples on the tongue. For instance, nux vomica, urtica urens, and lycopodium can help with food allergies. Also, bryonia, belladonna, and arsenicum album can treat a tongue pimple due to the influenza virus. Arsenicum album, natrum muriaticum, and mercurius solubilis are also used for tongue pimples caused by cold sores.
Foods that Can Worsen Pimples on the Tongue
Here are some foods to avoid at all costs when you have a pimple on your tongue.
1. Foods that Trigger Allergies
Allergies are a possible cause of tongue pimples. Common food allergies include wheat, dairy, shellfish, eggs, peanuts, and tree nuts. An elimination diet or an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay can help detect food allergies, while a meridian stress assessment test, bio-meridian test, and bio-analysis with bio-energetic testing can help detect food sensitivities.
2. Fatty Foods
Overconsumption of fatty foods is thought to cause pimples, including those found on the tongue. As a result, it’s best to avoid saturated and hydrogenated foods, plus solid fats and fried foods such as lard, margarine, and vegetable shortening.
3. Acidic Foods
Acidic or spicy foods will worsen the swelling or pain from tongue bumps or cold sores. Stay away from acidic foods such as soda and caffeine, and citrus fruits such as oranges, tomatoes, and grapefruit.
4. Dairy and Sugar
Dairy and refined sugar should be eliminated from the diet when you’ve got tongue pimples. Consumption of these foods will suppress the immune system, which can make it harder to relieve the condition.
5. Fungus-Containing Foods
Oral thrush is a common cause of tongue pimples, so it’s best to avoid foods that attract mold, including dairy, nuts, nut butters, processed foods, wheat, gluten, and alcohol.
There are certain ways to prevent a pimple on the tongue, such as:
- Chewing mint leaves before bed can help you reduce pain, ease discomfort, and shrink the size of the pimple.
- Sucking on ice cubes or ice chips may help numb the pain.
- It may be tempting, but whatever you do, resist popping the pimple—if you do pop it, bacteria may spread throughout your mouth.