11 Things It Can Mean For Your Health If You Have Bumps On Your Tongue

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If you've ever taken a peek inside your mouth and spotted bumps on your tongue, there's a good chance you were simply looking at tastebuds. "A healthy tongue should have tiny little bumps which you can see in the mirror (a bit like how you can see the bigger pores on your face), but which should be smooth to the touch," Dr. Ron Baise, a dentist at 92 Dental in London, England, tells Bustle. These bumps are to be expected, and are nothing to worry about.

If the bumps hurt, though, or appear larger than normal, it could be a sign something else is going. "Bumps which you can feel are not normal," Dr. Baise says. "They are usually [...] caused by trauma to the tongue and should heal with time alone." Think along the line of a bump caused by biting your tongue, which may be painful, but usually only takes a few days to heal.

Some bumps, though, can require more treatment. "The types of bumps you should ask your doctor about would be white bumps (especially along the back of your tongue), bright red bumps, or any bump you find that’s hard," Mark Burhenne, DDS, founder of AsktheDentist, tells Bustle. "These could be symptoms of underlying disease." Read on below for some reasons why you have bumps on your tongue, according to experts.

1. Dry Mouth

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If you have bumps on your tongue, it might mean you breathe through your mouth at night. While not a big deal, Dr. Burhenne says sleeping with your mouth open can lead to dry mouth, which can in turn lead to inflamed taste buds. If this happens, often all you need to do is stay hydrated, and the issue should resolve on its own.

2. Sleep Apnea

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Have you noticed bumps along the sides of your tongue? This might be a sign of a "scalloped tongue," which often goes hand-in-hand with sleep-disordered breathing, Dr. Burhenne says. "About 70 percent of people with a scalloped tongue are diagnosed with obstructive sleep apnea (OSA)," he says. So don't hesitate to point it out to your doctor, if you're concerned.

3. A "Big" Tongue

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Believe it or not, your tongue can technically be too big for your mouth, causing what's known as a "fissured tongue," Dr. Burhenne says, or one that has cracks and grooves on it. A large tongue can also be a risk factor for sleep apnea. But the good new is there are tongue-related exercises you can do to make it less likely. Just ask your doctor about it.

4. Sexually Transmitted Infections

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If you have a sexually transmitted infection, it can show up in the form of bumps on your tongue. For example, "white bumps on the back of the tongue can be a sign of syphilis," Dr. Burhenne says, which is a type of bacterial infection. If you notice anything out of the ordinary, there is nothing to be ashamed of. Don't hesitate to point it out to a doctor.

5. Warts

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While you might think of warts as an external condition, they can form on the tongue as well. And this is often due to HPV, or the human papillomavirus.

"HPV is a viral infection that is usually spread sexually," Dr. Baise says. "It can cause warts on the tongue, especially if the virus is spread via oral sex [...] Tongue warts caused by HPV are usually irregular in shape and rough in texture. There is usually only one such bump rather than a cluster of bumps." Once again, this is nothing to be ashamed of. If you notice this happening, it's best to discuss it with your doctor.

6. Canker Sores

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"Most bumps on tongues are either a mouth ulcer or a canker sore," Dr. Baise says. So if you see something out of the ordinary, chances are that will be what's going on.

"The two types of tongue injury are virtually indistinguishable and look like a small (less than 2mm in diameter) white sores that hurt when touched," he says. "Although they appear to be the same, the difference between the two is that whereas mouth ulcers are simply caused by trauma to the tongue (usually burns or scratches) canker sores are caused by a combination of mild trauma and an underlying bacterial disease called aphthous stomatitis."

They might also be on your lips, Dr. Baise says, and usually heal quickly by themselves.

7. Dehydration

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When you don't drink enough liquids, it can easily lead to dehydration. And that can cause all sorts of issues inside the mouth.

"Dehydration does not actually cause bumps to form on your tongue, but given that dehydration causes a drop in saliva production, your tongue can feel rougher as a result," Dr. Baise says. "Dehydration, along with smoking, are also leading causes of infected taste buds which can result in bumps on the tongue."

8. Lingual Papillitis

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If you injure your tongue, or eat super spicy foods, your tongue might react by creating little bumps. "This is known as lingual papillitis," Susan Bard, MD, of Manhattan Dermatology Specialists, tells Bustle. "It's painful but spontaneously resolves in a few days."

9. Oral Thrush

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Also known as a yeast infection, "thrush is caused by candida yeast and usually presents as a white plaque that can be scraped off but can start off as small white bumps as well," Dr. Bard says.

10. Herpes

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Herpes is another condition that can lead to bumps on the tongue. "Herpes simplex viral infection typically occurs on the lips and nose but can occur in the mouth and tongue as well," Dr. Bard says. "This infection if highly contagious and it is recommended that one not share utensils or kiss others while they have an outbreak." If you think this may be the issue, it's best to speak to your doctor.

11. Hand, Foot, And Mouth Disease

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"Hand, foot, and mouth viral infection can cause very painful bumps on the back of the tongue and throat," Dr. Bard says. "It can make swallowing very uncomfortable and may even be accompanied by a fever and general malaise." It's usually a very minor illness, though, and typically goes away on it's own.

There thousands of taste buds on the tongue, so there will be small bumps on it, no matter what. But since some bumps can be painful, as well as a sign of an infection, it's important to point them out to a doctor.