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Causes of small bumps on the tongue

Updated November 21, 2016

We don't pay much attention to our tongues until it hurts, is sore or is causing problems for us and we then wonder why. Sometimes you're going to see bumps on your tongue, which isn't always cause for alarm.

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Merck.com explains that sore tongues, including small bumps that seem to appear out of nowhere, can be caused by oral herpes simplex virus complex, allergic reactions, early stage syphilis, canker sores, bacterial infections or tuberculosis. Immune disorders can also cause tongue bumps.


If you have bumps on both sides of your tongue, it's probably nothing to worry about. However, if the bumps are exclusive to one side or the other of your tongue, the bumps may be cancerous and should be checked out. If you have developed white or red areas on your tongue, or hard lumps or sores, particularly if they are painless, this may be a sign of cancer. According to Merck, cancer almost never grows on the top of the tongue but rather on the floor of the mouth or on the sides of the tongue. The only exception is if you are suffering from untreated syphilis and that can cause cancer on the top of the tongue.

Irritated Taste Buds

The tongue is normally covered with papillae or a small layer of bumps, according to Riversideonline.com. If your taste buds gets irritated or inflamed, a painful bump, or papillae, can form on your tongue.


Atlantadentist.com notes that the most common type of bump found on the tongue is called fibroma and is a benign condition. A fibroma, which is a bump formed of connective tissues, usually surfaces after the tongue has been traumatise (you accidentally bit your tongue). The bump can stay put for years and doesn't change shape. It can, however, be removed and it may be in your best interest to opt for removal and subsequently have the tissue sent to a pathologist for testing just to make sure that it isn't anything serious.


Thrush, or oral Candidiasis, can infect the mouth, armpits, vagina and groin. When it shows up in the mouth, it can appear as curd-like patches on the tongue and also on the inner surfaces of the cheek. It will cause soreness. According to Medical-look.com (See Additional Resources), oral thrush will present itself as a creamy paste that covers the tongue and that spreads to the rest of the mouth. So, rather than seeing bumps, one would see a paste-like development, white in colour, on the tongue or elsewhere in the mouth.

Oral Herpes

If you have engaged in unprotected oral sex, there is a possibility that you have oral herpes, which will cause sores to develop on the front of the tongue as well as on the inside of the cheek, on the roof of the mouth, in the throat and on the gums, according to Emedicinehealth.com (See Additional Resources). Oral herpes lesions can be clear coloured or yellow. They are bumps or blisters that are tightly packed together and sit on a red irritated base, according to Ecureme.com.

See Your Doctor

Any time something unusual is going on with your body, including your tongue, err on the side of caution and make an appointment to see your doctor. She can determine if your problem is of a serious nature and needs treatment.

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About the Author

Cindi Pearce

Cindi Pearce is a graduate of Ohio University, where she received her bachelor’s degree in journalism. She completed both the undergraduate and graduate courses offered by the Institute of Children’s Literature. Pearce has been writing professionally for over 30 years.

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