Pimples on Tongue : Causes, Symptoms & Treatment


Everyone knows what a pimple is. Teens in particular are well-versed in the ways of the stubborn skin condition. Even some adults have to battle pimples with adult-onset acne. Not to mention that stress, ill health, and the proliferation of unhealthier food habits across the world has led to more and more people suffering from pimples.

Pimples on TonguePimples usually erupt on the face, neck, shoulders, back, and chest. But did you know that pimples can turn up on your tongue as well? Well, if you’re reading this article, there’s a chance that you are researching your first encounter with pimples on tongue. Or maybe you were just curious to learn about this strange little issue. Let’s take a closer look at pimples at tongue including what causes it, how it is normally treated, and what you can do to prevent pimples on tongue.

What are Pimples on Tongue?

There is a charming old wives tale surrounding the pimples on tongue phenomenon which states that pimples on tongue occurs when you tell a lie. This has earned the skin condition the informal moniker of ‘lie bumps’ – bumps that crop up when you tell a lie. This myth can be quoted to pull the leg of pimples on tongue victim, but it has no bearing on the reality of the situation. Here are a few basic facts about pimples on tongue.

  • Firstly, pimples on tongue are not a problematic health condition so there is nothing to worry about. – The technical term for pimples on tongue is transient lingual papillitis.
  • Pimples on tongue is not a contagious condition. So you will not be passing it on if you kiss or share a spoon with someone.

Now the name may seem pretty self-explanatory, but pimples on tongue are not like the pimples you get on external skin. To understand pimples on tongue better, it is important to know a little more about the structure of the tongue. Don’t worry; this will not get too technical.

The surface of your tongue has little bumps that are called papillae, which are small protuberances that sample the food you put in your mouth and send signals to the brain about the information of the taste of that particular food. These papillae are called fungiform papillae and are commonly known as taste buds. When the fungi form papillae is inflamed or irritated, it reacts in the form of ulcers that are referred to as pimples on tongue.

It is easy to forget that you have a pimple on your face or body when you are immersed in a task or as you just move about with your daily routine. But pimples on tongue are not so easily forgotten as they hamper your most basic functions everyday – eating, drinking, and talking. We’ll take a look at the other symptoms of pimples on tongue in just a moment. But first, here’s a quick note on pimples on tongue in children since it is not always the same as pimples on tongue in adults.

Pimples on Tongue in Children

If kids have pimples on tongue, it may be a different condition that is related to transient lingual papillitis – eruptive lingual papillitits. The symptoms of eruptive lingual papillitis are exactly the same as the regular pimples on tongue, i.e., transient lingual papillitis. The difference though is that it is contagious. It is found that pimples on tongue that is actually eruptive lingual papillitis can spread to other members of the family.

Pimples on tongue in children affect them when they are under 5 years of age. Very little is known about the cause of pimples on tongue in children. Its contagious quality has led researchers to believe that it may be an infection rather than just an inflammation of the papillae.

Causes of Pimples on Tongue

As we have seen, pimples on tongue are a result of irritation to the papillae. So we need to look into what would lead to the irritation thus causing the pimples on tongue. Unfortunately, even a plethora of scientific research has not come to a definitive conclusion about the causes of pimples on tongue. So keep in mind that the following causes are more speculation than actual fact.

  • An allergic reaction to something you eat or put in your mouth is usually attributed to be the prime cause of pimples on tongue. It could be anything from chemical-laden foods to the pen you are in the habit of chewing on when you think.
  • It is thought that eating foods with sharp textures can greatly irritate the papilla and cause pimples on tongue. Examples include chips, nachos or pretzels.
  • Many people get pimples on tongue when they over-indulge in sweets.
  • Foods with very high acid content may also cause pimples on tongue.
  • Pimples on tongue can be a result of some kind of injury to the tongue caused by scraping or biting.
  • Oral thrush or oral candidiasis – a yeast infection – can also cause pimples on tongue. This is a fungal infection and you may see pimples on other parts of the body as well like the armpits or groin.
  • Not surprisingly, stress also features on the possible causes of pimples on tongue. 
  • Sometimes, pimples on tongue can be a sign of vitamin B deficiency.
  • Problems with the digestive system can sometimes manifest as pimples on tongue.
  • Smokers seem to be more affected by pimples on tongue than non-smokers, which leads to the belief that smoking may be a cause for pimples on tongue.
  • Pimples on tongue can sometimes crop up when there are hormonal fluctuations in the body like during menstruation.
  • Pimples on tongue can be a symptom of a sexually transmitted disease like herpes. If you have recently indulged in oral sex, this may very well be the reason for your pimples on tongue and you should see a doctor immediately.
  • As mentioned before, pimples on tongue in children may be because of eruptive lingual papillitis which is classified as an infection.
  • If pimples on tongue are painless, it may be one of the earlier symptoms of cancer.
  • Your pimples on tongue may actually not be a pimple at all but fibroma – a benign bump that is permanent, caused when you accidentally bite your tongue. The bump will not go away even after years. You will have to visit an oral pathologist to have it removed.

Symptoms of Pimples on Tongue

  • Pimples on tongue is characterized by white or red bumps on the tongue that look swollen. So they are quite large and obvious.
  • Pimples on tongue are often painful. They can be tender to touch.
  • The bumps are irritated every time you eat on drink as the food grazes the surface of the affected area.
  • Talking can sometimes get difficult when there are pimples on tongue. The pain can be too great, or the pimples on tongue can feel swollen and cause some amount of discomfort while trying to speak. The tongue can feel heavier because of the swelling.
  • If your pimples on tongue are caused by herpes, then the pimples will have a yellowish color and may ooze a pus-like liquid after being around for some days. Fever or flu-like symptoms may also occur.
  • If pimples on tongue in children is caused by eruptive lingual papillitis, then the pimples on tongue will be accompanied by excess production of saliva and problems with feeding. In very rare cases, swollen lymph nodes and even fever can occur.

Treatment for Pimples on Tongue

Pimples TongueOK, here’s the bad news. There is no treatment for pimples on tongue. You just have to leave it alone and allow your body to resolve the issue in its own time. The pain or irritation can be quite bad though, so you may want to try ice packs or medications for numbing to dull the pain. You can also try over-the-counter ointments which can protect the surface of the irritated papillae, similar to applying a bandage to an open wound.

Removing Pimples on Tongue

Some folks will recommend removing the inflamed papilla with sterilized tweezers. There are some risks to this treatment option. For one, you will have an open wound in your mouth for awhile. This can hurt too, and you will have to be careful about the kinds of food that you eat. Anything spicy, tangy or salty will have you rolling on the floor in pain. Apply numbing gel to the area first to reduce the severity of the pain you are bound to feel when you rip that papilla out.

Tips To Help Heal Pimples on Tongue

Yes, there is no real treatment for pimples on tongue. But that does not mean you just go about your life as usual and allow yourself to be harassed by this annoying condition. Here are a couple of things you can do to aid faster healing and to soothe the discomfort of pimples on tongue.

  • Avoid eating foods that are high in acidity and sugar while your pimples on tongue heal. For example, avoid sodas, candy, tomatoes and lime.
  • Rinse your mouth out with salt water two to three times a day. Even a good mouthwash will do if you find the taste of salt water too yucky.
  • Another way to reduce pain and swelling is to dab the pimples on tongue with a cotton swab dipped in milk of magnesia. As anyone who has ever had milk of magnesia can affirm, the tongue feels numb and tasteless. This very same quality is what will reduce your discomfort.
  • Chewing on a sprig of mint before bed can also aid in reducing swelling. You may notice a marked reduction in the size of the pimples on tongue by the very next day.
  • Keep your mouth as clean as possible while it is healing from pimples on tongue. You know all that basic oral hygiene stuff you were taught in school but have never really bothered with? A good time to start taking those seriously when you have to help get rid of your pimples on tongue. Brush before you go to bed at night. Scrape your tongue with a tongue scraper to get rid of bacteria. Carry your toothbrush with you to work and brush (without toothpaste) after meals to dislodge pieces of food that may be stuck between your teeth. These bits can harden and cause further irritation to your already inflamed tongue.
  • You may be tempted to bite off the pimples on tongue because they are so irritating. Don’t. It will hurt like hell. Your first instinct may be to scrape your tongue against your teeth. While this will indeed give you some respite from the symptoms, the pain will multiply once you stop.
  • Pop a few vitamin B pills to make up for a vitamin B deficiency.

If left alone, the pimples on tongue will disappear inside of a week. But if the pimples in tongue last longer than this, then you should visit the doctor to check whether the growth is indeed just stubborn pimples on tongue or something more sinister like cancerous tumors or a sexually transmitted disease.

Prevention of Pimples on Tongue

Since the causes of pimples on tongue are not well understood, it is unlikely that you will be able to prevent the condition. However, from the little that is known about pimples on tongue, doctors suggest that taking the following preventive measures may help in keeping pimples on tongue at bay.

  • Maintain good oral hygiene.
  • Eat a healthy balanced diet that consists largely of fruits and vegetables.
  • Avoid spicy foods, fried foods and processed junk. These have the greatest potential to cause allergic reactions which can result in pimples on tongue.
  • Also avoid eating very hot or very cold foods as these can both irritate the papillae and lead to pimples on tongue.
  • Make sure you are getting enough water. 8 glasses a day is minimum.

Seems simple enough, no? These small, easy-to-follow steps should help reduce your chances of getting pimples on tongue – a better alternative to being pestered by this troublesome condition.


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