White Bumps or Spots on Tongue: Causes and Natural Treatments

White Bumps or Spots on Tongue: Causes and Natural Treatments
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White bumps or spots on your tongue can tell a lot about your health. Small white bumps that appear on the back of your tongue, under your tongue, or on the surface of your tongue can be caused by a yeast infection or inflammation of your taste buds. Sometimes, the white tongue spots are the result of a weakened immune system that causes whitish sores and ulcers to appear on the surface and tip of the tongue. Or, the white spots could be a tongue blister that has been caused by biting, burning or injuring your tongue.

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In the majority of cases, the white tongue bumps can be treated with natural treatments. Natural remedies that boost oral health can help to quickly get rid of white lesions on your tongue by getting rid of bacteria and preventing infection. Some very effective ways to treat white bumps on your tongue include tea tree oil, witch hazel, or a simple salt rinse to kill off infections.

In this article, you will learn about the different causes of white spots on different areas of your tongue. You will also find out how to treat the various conditions that cause white dots, spots, and bumps to appear on your tongue.

What are White Bumps or Spots on the Tongue?

Your tongue is a very sensitive organ and its surface is covered in small papillae or tiny tongue bumps. These can trap bacteria or become inflamed or infected. If this is the case, you may notice raised white bumps especially on the tip and surface of your tongue.

Because you don’t have taste buds on the sides and under your tongue, any white spots that appear there are often caused by a biting or burning injury. The white lesions may be blisters or white sores on the side of your tongue and will probably sting if you eat acidic foods or be very sensitive to hot foods and drinks.

Symptoms of White Spots or Bumps on the Tongue

Having white spots or bumps on your tongue can be very irritating and affect your daily activities. Our tongue is needed for speaking, swallowing, and tasting food. Having raised white or gray bumps on your tongue can result in food having a strange taste in your mouth. Or, the painful tongue bumps can affect speech and cause general discomfort in your mouth.

Depending on the underlying cause of your white-looking tongue bumps you may have other symptoms. For example, canker sores can cause pain and discomfort and will look like a white sore with a red border. They may also create a tingling sensation on your tongue before the white ulcer appears.

Yeast infections can also cause white cottage cheese-like patches on the back of your tongue. These white patches may also affect the back of your throat and tonsils at the same time and can usually be scraped off the tongue. Similarly, white patches on the tongue that are caused by a buildup of bacteria and other debris can usually be removed with a tongue scraper.

Causes of White Bumps and Spots on the Tongue

Let’s look in more detail what can be the reasons for white spots and bumps to develop on different parts of your tongue.

Poor oral hygiene

One of the simplest reasons that white bumps can appear on your tongue is due to poor oral hygiene. A buildup of bacteria in your mouth can turn the small bumps on your tongue a whitish-gray color.

According to doctors from the Mayo Clinic, poor oral hygiene can cause the small taste buds on your tongue to become inflamed. These enlarged bumps then trap bacteria, dead cells, and debris and cause a white coating on different parts of your tongue.1

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To help keep your tongue free of patches of white bumps, it’s important to practice good oral health habits. One way is to reduce the amount of plaque in your mouth by using natural mouthwashes and regularly brushing your tongue and teeth and flossing them. To find out how to make your own homemade toothpaste, please read my article on how to use coconut oil as a toothpaste.

Thermal burn

A white sore on your tongue could be caused by burning the sensitive tissue in your mouth. A thermal burn can cause a blister on the surface of your tongue or under your tongue that can fill with fluid.

Dr. Sumana Jothi on MedlinePlus says that burning your mouth with hot food or drinks can cause a mouth sore. Depending on the severity of the burn, the sore on your tongue may take between 10 and 14 days to heal. Dr. Jothi recommends swishing your mouth with a salt solution to help speed up the healing process.2

At the end of this article, you can find out how to make a simple saline solution to treat mouth sores. In my article on how to heal a burnt tongue quickly, you can also find more helpful remedies to treat white sores on your tongue caused by burning.

Canker sores

A painful white bump on your lip, the tip of your tongue, or the side of your tongue could be a canker sore. Canker sores are small white ulcers that can appear every few months or so on the tongues of some people.

Dr. Alfred Wyatt from the Medical College of Georgia School of Dentistry says that as well as causing white spots on the tongue, canker sores can cause discomfort when eating and talking. Canker sores can also appear on the roof of your mouth, on your gums, and under your tongue. According to Dr. Wyatt, some of the causes of canker sores are stress, injury from ill-fitting dentures, or certain vitamin or mineral deficiencies.3

Enjoying a well-balanced diet and avoiding foods that can trigger canker sores, such as spicy or acidic foods, can help prevent white ulcer-like bumps affecting your tongue.

Lie bumps (transient lingual papillitis)

Swelling of your tongue’s taste buds can cause raised white spots and bumps to appear on the front of your tongue. Various conditions in your mouth can cause inflamed papillae that look like small whitish dots on the tongue.

According to dermatologist Dr. Dyall-Smith, transient lingual papillitis can be caused by gastrointestinal upset, stress, or fluctuations in hormones. It has also been noted that people with eczema, allergies, or asthma suffer from lie bumps more frequently than others. Sometimes the white tongue spots can last several days and cause itching or a burning sensation.4

Usually, to get rid of lie bumps quickly, doctors recommend using an antibacterial mouthwash, eating natural yogurt to cool the tongue, or drinking cold fluids.

Allergic reaction

Allergic reactions often affect the tongue and can cause spots to appear as white patches on the tongue. Along with the small to large white patches, doctors from WebMD say that allergies can also cause your tongue to be sore.5

If you notice that your tongue also starts to swell due to an allergic reaction, you should contact a doctor as soon as possible. Dr. Melissa Conrad Stöppler on MedicineNet says that tongue swelling can cause breathing problems and quickly become a medical emergency.6

An allergic reaction can also cause the tongue to swell and be one of the reasons for having a scalloped tongue.

Injury

Biting the tip of your tongue or side of your tongue may cause a fluid-filled blister to develop that looks white or clear. Along with the initial pain, the tongue injury can cause your tongue to become very sensitive to heat and certain foods.

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Dr. Sumana Jothi on MedlinePlus says that other common causes of tongue injuries that can result in mouth sores are braces irritating your tongue, dentures that don’t fit properly, or a broken tooth.2

Biting the side of your tongue could also be a reason for getting a blood blister on your tongue.

Dehydration

One of the ways that dehydration can affect your body is to cause patches of white bumps to develop on your tongue. Some of the other signs that you are not drinking enough fluids are headaches, bubbles in your urine, dark colored urine that may smell like ammonia, lightheadedness, and trouble concentrating.

How can dehydration cause your tongue to develop white patches? Dr. Melissa Conrad Stöppler on MedicineNet explains that mild dehydration can cause a buildup of bacteria on your tongue. This results in a whitening of the tongue’s surface.

Oral thrush

Oral thrush is a yeast infection that can cause white lumpy patches on the back of your tongue and mouth. Oral thrush is also called candidiasis and happens when there is an imbalance of “good” and “bad” bacteria in your mouth. Candida can also affect the back of your mouth and cause white patches on your tonsils.

Dentist, Dr. Michael Friedman says that the symptoms of oral thrush are white lumpy patches that affect the surface of your tongue and mouth. It is a common condition in the elderly and infants and commonly happens after a course of antibiotics.8

Taking probiotics to restore healthy bacteria is one of the 3 things you should do after taking antibiotics and will help you to avoid candidiasis.

Leukoplakia

Leukoplakia can result in white lines or bumps under your tongue that can’t be scraped away. Because the signs of leukoplakia usually appear on the bottom of your mouth and are painless, and hard to notice at the start.

According to doctors from WebMD, chronic irritation of the mucous membranes of the mouth and tongue can cause these white lesions to develop on the tongue, the inside of the cheek, or on the floor of the mouth. Causes of leukoplakia can include chronic smoking and irritation from ill-fitting dentures, rough teeth or fillings.20 The white, grayish patches may have a raised surface and become thickened. Some forms of leukoplakia cause whitish bumps or ridges that have a hairy appearance to appear on the sides of the tongue.9

Geographic tongue

A geographic tongue will cause red patches with raised white borders on your tongue. A geographic tongue is so called because it gives your tongue an appearance of a map. The red and white lesions can affect the top of your tongue and the side of your tongue as well.

Dr. Alfred Wyatt on WebMD says that the patches on your tongue are distinguishable because of their white border. The discolored bumpy areas on your tongue may last for as short as a few days or last as long as a few months. You may also have a burning sensation on your tongue that is more sensitive to spicy and acidic foods.10

Usually, the discomfort from a geographic tongue goes away by itself. You should also avoid foods that irritate the sensitive patches on your tongue even more.

Oral lichen planus

Oral lichen planus is an inflammatory oral condition that can cause various types of sores on your tongue. It is thought that oral lichen planus is an autoimmune condition where the immune system attacks the mucous membranes in the mouth.

According to doctors from the Mayo Clinic, oral lichen planus causes white, lacy patches on the tongue that can become open sores. Sometimes, oral lichen planus is a reason for having red bumps in your mouth that appear on your gums, inside of the cheeks, and roof of your mouth.11

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Oral cancer

Oral cancer is a rare but serious cause of a large white bump in your mouth. However, a white bump on your tongue isn’t a sign in itself of oral cancer. Dr. Michael Friedman on WebMD says that red and white speckled patches in the mouth, unexplained bleeding, difficulty chewing, ear pain, and a chronic sore throat are just some of the accompanying symptoms of oral cancer.12

If you have a white bump on your tongue, gums, the roof of your mouth, or under your tongue that doesn’t go away or is accompanied with other symptoms, you should visit your dentist or doctor for a checkup.

Natural Treatments to Get Rid of White Bumps on Tongue

It’s generally easy to get rid of white bumps or spots on your tongue because many natural treatments help to address their underlying cause. Here are some effective home remedies for getting rid of white bumps on the tongue.

Salt rinse

Salt is a natural antibacterial agent that can help to kill off infections in the oral cavity that cause whitening on your tongue. A saline mouthwash can also help to fight gum infection and improve oral hygiene.

For example, the doctors from the Mayo Clinic recommend rinsing your mouth with a salt water rise to help get rid of white canker sores from your tongue.

How to use:

To make your own antibacterial mouthwash with a simple saline solution, this is what you should do:

  1. Mix a teaspoon of sea salt in a glass of warm water and mix until the salt has dissolved.
  2. Swish the remedy around your mouth for a few minutes to help kill off infections and get rid of white bumps on your tongue.
  3. Repeat 2 times a day for best results.

The salt water mouth rinse can be used to get rid of white spots on your tongue that are canker sores, caused by an injury, or a buildup of bacteria on the surface of your tongue. You can even use salt to make your own homemade teeth whitening toothpaste.

Baking soda

Baking soda is another great natural treatment to get rid of white spots and bumps from the tip of your tongue or any other area on your tongue.

According to a dentistry journal, baking soda is antibacterial in nature and helps reduce the number of bacteria in the mouth. Studies found that baking soda kills off bacteria that can colonize the mouth.13 Also, the Canadian Medical Association Journal reported that baking soda is a tried and trusted remedy for painful white bumps caused by canker sores.14

How to use:

You can use baking soda to get rid of white bumps and ulcers on your tongue by making it into a paste or using it as a mouth rinse. Here is how to use baking soda to get rid of canker sores or other white tongue spots:

  • Mix 1 teaspoon baking soda with a little water to form a thick paste.
  • Apply the baking soda remedy directly to the white spots or patches on your tongue to reduce irritation.
  • Leave for a few minutes on the sore white spots on your tongue to help kill off any infection.
  • Use 2-3 times a day until your white irritating bumps have gone for good.

To make a baking soda mouth rinse to help get rid of white bumps caused by a geographic tongue, canker sores, ulcers, or lie bumps, this is what you should do:

  1. Mix a teaspoon of baking soda in a glass of warm water and mix until the powder has dissolved completely.
  2. Rinse your mouth with the baking soda rinse for a few minutes to help accelerate tongue sore healing.
  3. Repeat 2 times a day to help quickly get rid of your annoying white bumps from your tongue.

If you just have white bumps on the back of your tongue, then gargling 2 times a day with the baking soda solution will be the best remedy to get rid of the irritated white bumps.

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Tea tree oil mouthwash

Tea tree oil is a powerful antibacterial essential oil that can help to soothe the pain of an infected white sore on your tongue. Tea tree oil also helps to destroy yeast fungi that can cause oral thrush and white, clumpy bumps on your tongue.

The European Journal of Dentistry reported that tea tree oil contains antimicrobial compounds that are effective against infection-causing oral pathogens. The study found that tea tree oil helps to disinfect the mouth and destroy oral thrush and candida infections.15

How to use:

To make an effective mouthwash to help treat white oral sores on the tongue, this is what you should do:

  1. Mix 1-2 drops of tea tree oil in a glass of water.
  2. Rinse the remedy around your mouth for a minute or so to kill off any infection and then spit out.
  3. Use 2 times a day and continue until you no longer have any white patches or gray-whitish bumps on your tongue.

Tea tree oil is toxic when ingested, therefore, you should take care not to swallow the liquid.

Witch hazel

Witch hazel is a natural antiseptic that is great for treating canker sores, lie bumps, and other causes of white bumps on your tongue. Witch hazel is also a natural astringent that can help to reduce inflammation, irritation, and pain in various types of sores in the mouth.

According to the University of Michigan, witch hazel can be used for canker sores to help relieve the pain and speed up the healing process.16

How to use:

You can make a mouthwash with a witch hazel solution very easily at home to get rid of white bumps and spots from your tongue. This is what you should do:

  1. Mix 1 teaspoon witch hazel and 2 drops of clove oil in a glass of warm water.
  2. Use as a mouthwash 2-3 times a day to help canker sores and other types of white bumps heal quicker.
  3. Repeat daily until your painful white lesions from your tongue have disappeared completely.

Coconut oil

Virgin coconut oil is an antifungal remedy to treat the symptoms of oral thrush. Coconut oil contains fatty acids that help to destroy strains of yeast and fungi from the mouth that can cause candidiasis.

For example, the Journal of Medicinal Food reported that coconut oil contains antimicrobial properties that have fungicidal actions. It was found that coconut oil was effective in killing many candida strains and was just as effective as antifungal pharmaceuticals in treating fungal infections.17

How to use:

To help treat the symptoms of oral thrush naturally and get rid of white bumps on your tongue, this is how you can use coconut oil:

  1. Mix 2 drops of cinnamon oil with 1 tablespoon virgin coconut oil.
  2. Swish the remedy around your mouth for a few minutes to help get rid of oral thrush.
  3. Spit the liquid out and dispose it in the trash (to avoid clogging pipes in your home).
  4. Brush your teeth as usual and rinse your mouth with water.
  5. Repeat every day until you no longer have white patches on your tongue.

Apple cider vinegar

Another natural antiseptic and antifungal treatment for getting rid of white spots and bumps from your tongue is raw unprocessed apple cider vinegar (ACV). The healing properties of apple cider vinegar help to remove bacteria, fungi, and infections from the oral cavity.

The Journal of Prosthodontics reported that the antifungal acidic properties in apple cider vinegar destroy candida strains that can infect the mouth.18 Other studies have shown that apple cider vinegar is a natural antibacterial solution for killing infection-causing bacteria.19

How to use:

To use apple cider vinegar to treat white tongue bumps, it’s important to use the raw, unfiltered kind. This contains all the beneficial healing enzymes that are needed to help the healing process. This is what you should do:

  1. Mix 2 teaspoons raw ACV and 1/2 teaspoon salt in a glass of warm water.
  2. Swish the natural mouth rinse around your mouth for a few minutes.
  3. Repeat several times during the day and continue using until all signs of your white spots on your tongue have gone.

When to See a Doctor

Thankfully, most of the reasons why you can get white spots and bumps on the top of your tongue, the tip of your tongue, or under your tongue are not serious. The home remedies for white tongue sores in this article are extremely effective at boosting oral health and speeding up healing.

However, sometimes, a white bump on your tongue or a collection of painful white spots can be a cause for concern. According to many doctors, you should see a doctor for tongue problems that involve white bumps in the following circumstances:3, 8

  • A lump or sore on your tongue or in your mouth doesn’t go away within two weeks.
  • You have unusually large white sores on your tongue that start to spread.
  • The pain that accompanies the white bumps on your tongue is intolerable.
  • The white spots at the back of your tongue cause difficulty eating or swallowing.
  • You have a high fever along with the white tongue bumps.

Read my other related articles:

Article Sources

  1. MayoClinic. White tongue.
  2. MedlinePlus. Mouth sores.
  3. WebMD. Canker sores.
  4. DermNetNZ. Transient lingual papillitis.
  5. WebMD. Sore tongue and white patches inside mouth
  6. MedicineNet. Swollen tongue.
  7. MedicineNet. White tongue.
  8. WebMD. Tongue problem basics.
  9. MayoClinic. Leukoplakia.
  10. WebMD. Geographic tongue.
  11. MayoClinic. Oral lichen planus.
  12. WebMD. Oral cancer.
  13. Compend Contin Educ Dent Suppl.1997;18(21):S17-21;quiz S46.
  14. CMAJ. 2002 Apr 2; 166(7): 884.
  15. Eur J Dent. 2013 Sep; 7(Suppl 1): S71–S77.
  16. UOFMHealth. Witch hazel.
  17. J Med Food.2007 Jun;10(2):384-7.
  18. J Prosthodont.2015 Jun;24(4):296-302.
  19. J Food Prot.1998 Aug;61(8):953-9.
  20. WebMD. Dental Health and Leukoplakia.
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