Pimples on the tongue are caused by a number of diseases and conditions. They are often white or red in appearance (at times black or yellow) depending on the cause. These zits can affect the tip, under, side, back, or your whole tongue. Furthermore, they could be small (little or tiny) or bigger in size, painful (sore and hurts) or painless.
Pimples on the tongue is a common problem that affects many people of different age sets i.e. children (infants, babies or toddlers) as well as adults. Although this acne problem is not life-threatening (unless caused by a life-threatening condition), it could be bothersome and irritating especially if they swell and become sore (painful or hurt a lot).
Depending on the cause, these pimples vary in sizes i.e. you could have little (small or tiny) or bigger ones. Furthermore, the pimples could be black, white, red or yellow appearance and they will tend to be on various parts including the top part, tip, and side, back as well as under your tongue.
Causes of these bumps
If you are wondering if you can get this bumps on your tongue, the answer is yes, you can get them. The next obvious question you will want to be addressed is what causes them or why do you have them. The causes are many. Some of the common ones include the following:
1. Injuries and trauma
Tongue biting, eating hard and rough food (such as chips, pretzels, nachos), piercings jewelry or dental appliances can irritate or bruise your tongue and cause a painful or sore pimple like bumps or swellings especially on the side as well as the tip of the tongue. These pimples could appear white when they begin to heal.
Allergic reactions to various allergens including food, medications, mouth care, and lip care products (such as balms, glosses and lips sticks) can cause a pimple on your tongue as the body’s immunity system tries to get rid of the allergens. When caused by allergic reaction, you will notice the pimples suddenly after you encounter with the allergen.
3. Inflamed, swollen and enlarged lingual papillae or tastebuds
Lingual papillae “are the small, nipple or hair-like structures on the upper surface of the tongue that give it its characteristic rough texture” [wilipedia.org] and they are associated with taste buds. Sometimes, they can be inflamed and swollen. This will give them a pimple-like bumps appearance that tends to be white or red in color often known as lie bumps or transient lingual papillae.
4. Clogged tongue skin
Sometimes, the surface of your tongue can be clogged with dead skin, food or dirt giving bacteria a chance to form at the base of our pores causing pimples.
5. Canker sores or aphthous ulcers
Canker sores “are small, shallow lesions that develop on the soft tissues in your mouth or at the base of your gums” [mayoclinic.org] that are not contagious. These pimples like sores tend to be painful and can make talking or eating difficult. Canker sores are caused by stress, food allergies, mineral and vitamins deficiency, immunity issues, mouth injuries, hormonal changes, or viral infections.
6. Oral thrush
Oral thrush or oral candidiasis is a fungal infection can often cause white pimples in your mouth and tongue (tip , side or even back). Sometimes, oral thrush could cause red ones if it causes tastebuds inflammation.
7. Viral infections and STDs
Viral infection such as flu and cold sore or oral herpes (oral herpes is an oral STD) can form blisters and white pimple-like bumps on your tongue and other parts of the mouth and lips. Pimples from oral herpes tend to ooze clear liquid that is pus-like and they may come with other flu-like symptoms.
8. Oral cancer
If you suffer from stubborn swollen sores in your mouth including your tongue that doesn’t seem to go away, it could cancerous. You will know it is caused by cancer if you have other oral cancer symptoms such as “lump or thickening in the oral soft tissues, soreness or a feeling that something is caught in the throat, difficulty chewing or swallowing, ear pain, difficulty moving the jaw or tongue, hoarseness, numbness of the tongue or other areas of the mouth, or swelling of the jaw that causes dentures to fit poorly or become uncomfortable” [nidcr.nih.gov].
9. Kawasaki disease
This is a disease common in children characterized by “red bumps that are fairly large to appear on the back of the tongue” [med-health.com]. It also causes fever, swollen lymph nodes, palm redness, feet sole redness, bloodshot eyes, joint pain and cracked lips.
10. Scarlet fever
Scarlet fever is an infectious disease that affects mainly children that has symptoms that include a sore throat, red rash (on the body including the tongue) and fever. Being a bacterial infection, treatment is often by antibiotics.
11. Other causes
There are many other causes that include poor oral hygiene that can spur pimple appearance, smoking and chewing tobacco, stress, leukoplakia, digestive system problems, scarlet fever (leaves it red, swollen and bumpy), hormonal changes especially during pregnancy, scrapping, among others.
Where they appear
1. Under tongue
Sometimes, you might have these bumps on your under the tongue. They could be painful (hurt) or not painful depending on their cause. They could be big or small and commonly white or red located anywhere including right on your vein. Their most common causes include the following:
- Oral cancer – oral cancer infection can cause bumps or pimples i.e. cancerous bumps
- Fever sore pimple under the tongue or cold sores – Cold sores characterized by small red bumps that tend to ooze clear liquid. They might appear white as you begin to heal.
- Canker sores – Canker sores (a king of mouth ulcers) that tend to be painful (blistered sores) and could be caused by a number of things we have already seen.
- Lymphoepithelial cysts – If you have soft yellowish cysts, you could be suffering from lymphoepithelial cysts whose cause is not known and can be treated by surgical removal.
- A clear pimple under the tongue – If you have it, (it might also be a bluish blister or bubble movable, dome-shaped and soft), it is normally caused by mucocele. Mucocele is a harmless condition where your small salivary gland or duct gets blocked and damaged.
Other conditions such as syphilis, irritation, scarlet fever, vitamin deficiency (especially vitamin B complex), traumatic fibroma, and squamous papilloma have been associated with this problem.
Treatment will depend on their cause i.e. look their symptoms to get a hint on what could have caused them. Do not burst or pop them.
2. Bumps on side of tongue
Bumps on side of the tongue can be caused by oral cancer, canker sores, allergic reactions, dental appliances, trauma or injuries, oral lichen planus, oral cancer, oral herpes, fibroma, oral thrush, vitamins deficiency among other reasons we have already discussed.
The pimple-like bump on the side of the nose could be big, small, painful, white, black, red or yellow in color depending on what caused it. It could also be on the right or left side.
3. On mouth and lips
It is possible to have white pimples on the tongue which could be located at any part including the upper surface, the side, on the tip, under e (bottom) as well as the back of your tongue. These pimples could be little or large, just one or many, scattered or clustered on your tongue.
The white bumps are often caused by oral thrush (both in children and adults), leukoplakia, oral lichen planus, and canker sores, injuries (from biting, burning, dental appliances), piercings and jewelry, among other conditions.
On how to get rid of a white pimple on the tongue, most of the general remedies and treatment we will discuss on the last part of this work will apply.
4. On tip of tongue
Just like pimples on any other part of the tongue and mouth, pimples on the tip can be painful (hurt) or painless, white, red, small or big depending on what causes them. They are caused by most of the causes we have seen including transient lingual papillitis, cold sores, canker sores, etc.
5. Back of tongue
A pimple on the back of tongue can be caused by allergies, trauma, canker sores, Kawasaki disease, oral thrush, leukoplakia, scarlet fever, among others. You might have big, small, white or red bumps. If you have blisters, oral herpes is known to cause blisters and pimples on the backside.
How do they look like?
Yellow pimple-like bumps
If you have small yellowish looking painful pimple on your mouth, lips or tongue, it could be from cold sores or oral herpes. It is considered as an STD that causes blisters which is often red but on drying, it turns to a yellowish crust. Some canker sores can also be yellow i.e. they appear white or yellow with its surrounding area red.
Red pimples bumps
If you have a red pimple on tip, side, top, under or back of the tongue, it could have been caused by a number of things. One of the common cause cold sores. According to webmd.com, the “skin around the blisters is often red, swollen, and sore. The blisters may break open, leak a clear fluid, and then scab over after a few days.”
Other causes include inflamed taste buds (if you have small raised pimples), scarlet fever, Kawasaki syndrome, canker sores among other causes.
Black pimple-like bumps
A black pimple can be caused by hyperpigmentation, oral fibroma, piercing, oral cancer, hairy black tongue, injury and trauma, allergic reactions, etc.
How to get rid of pimples on tongue fast
The specific treatments or cure this problem will depend on what causes it. If it is an antibacterial infection, you could get a prescription for the right antibiotics to treat this problem. Similarly, those caused by viral infections might require antiviral drugs not to treat but to relieve the symptoms. Finally, those caused by a fungal infection such as oral thrush will require antifungal medication (especially oral suspension such as nystatin).
To help treat, reduce, prevent or soothe them, especially if they hurt, there are a number of recommended home remedies and general mouth and tongue care tips that can be of much help. These remedies include:
- Avoid foods that cause allergies or irritate your taste buds including spicy, hot and salty foods since they will make the condition worse. Acid and carbonated foods should be avoided since they will irritate the bumps.
- Keep proper oral hygiene with includes brushing your tongue gently twice a day using a good antibacterial mouthwash. You can try dental gels but avoid mouthwashes that contain alcohol.
- For fast results, gargle saline or salty water for 2-3 minutes twice a day. This will help reduce the inflammation, pain, and swelling. Salty water can also treat minor mouth infections and prevent new infections as well as infection spread. To prepare your saline solution, add a teaspoon of salt to about a cup of warm water.
- Try covering the pimples or bumps with OTC antiseptic medications such as Zilactin or OralBase medication to help reduce irritation and fasten healing.
- Apply milk of magnesia twice a day using a cotton ball to get some relief especially if your pimple are sore.
- Try a cold compress by sucking ice chips or cubes. This will help reduce swelling and inflammation or pain.
- Fig and milk mixture i.e. two figs mixed in warm milk will be important if your pimples are due to indigestion or gastrointestinal problem such as acid reflux.
- Chewing mint leaves before you go to bed can help reduce pimple size the following morning as well as reduce discomfort or pain.
- Make a paste using baking powder and hydrogen peroxide and apply it on the affected area. This will be helpful in dealing with bacterial infections.
- Try applying equal mixtures of water and hydrogen peroxide on the affected part using cotton swabs 3-4 times a day.
Do not pop these bumps or zits
In case you have a tongue pimple, you need to resist popping it since it will lead to spreading of the bacteria that caused it.
Healthy and balanced diet
Some foods tend to encourage pimples. Avoid fatty foods, dairy products, sugary foods, coffee, bread, coconut oil, among others. Instead, eat a lot of fruits and vegetables. Vitamin B and C supplements will also be helpful in dealing with pimples in your mouth and other body parts. Also, ensure you take a lot of water
Our sources and references