Bumps on Back of Tongue: Causes and Effective Treatments

Bumps on Back of Tongue: Causes and Effective Treatments

The surface of your tongue has many tiny bumps called papillae that give the tongue a rough texture and help you taste food. These small bumps are found from the back of your tongue to the tip of your tongue. Usually, you only notice these tongue bumps if they become inflamed or swollen for some reason. For example, viral or bacterial infections, injury, or allergic reactions can cause red or white swollen bumps on the back of the tongue.

Depending on the cause of the swollen papillae at the back of your tongue, they could interfere with your sense of taste, eating, and even speaking. In most cases, there are effective home remedies that can help to get rid of these annoying tongue bumps at the back of your mouth. For example, salt water rinses, apple cider vinegar, and witch hazel have antimicrobial properties that can get rid of infections that cause bumps on your tongue.

In this article, you will learn about the causes of bumps that appear on the surface of your tongue at the back of the throat. You will also find effective treatments you can make at home to get rid of the cause of the tongue bumps and when the condition is serious enough to see a doctor.

What Causes Red Bumps on Back of Tongue

Let’s look briefly at why you can get red bumps appearing on the back of your tongue. Bumps or papillae on your tongue are already a reddish, pink color. However, conditions like a throat infection or bacterial infection will cause the bumps to become larger and redder and possibly cause some pain.

Also, if you injure the back of your tongue with hot liquids or inadvertently biting your tongue, you may get a tender, red fluid-filled blister on the affected area. Some medical conditions that cause swollen, red bumps at the back of your tongue are scarlet fever or squamous cell papilloma.

Why White Bumps Appear on Back of Tongue

White bumps on your tongue, whether they are at the back of the tongue, side of the tongue or tip of the tongue are often more noticeable.

Usually, white tongue bumps that show up anywhere on your tongue are caused by a viral or yeast infection. For example, oral thrush causes white bumpy patches on your tongue near your throat. Also, viruses like the herpes virus can cause painful white ulcers on your tongue and possibly fever symptoms. However, sometimes stress, vitamin deficiencies, or food sensitivities can cause canker sores at the back of your tongue or under your tongue.

Bumps on Back of Tongue – Causes and Home Remedies

The condition of your tongue can tell a lot about your health. Let’s look at common causes of red or white tongue bumps that can cause discomfort and irritation near the back of your tongue.

Canker sores

Many people will have canker sores at some point in their lives. These small bump-like ulcers can appear anywhere in your mouth, including the back of your tongue. These oral bumps may start off with a tingling or burning sensation before a white ulcer appears.

According to doctors from the Mayo Clinic, canker sores can be white or yellow and are surrounded by a red border. Usually, the white bumps are fairly small. However, large painful sores can develop and take longer to heal.1

Dr. John Cunha on MedicineNet says that canker sores can be caused by a number of different factors. For example, eating acidic foods, having a vitamin deficiency, being under prolonged stress, or smoking can be a reason for white ulcer-like bumps on your tongue. Also, some medicines can cause canker sores.2

How to treat canker sores

One excellent way you can treat canker sores at home and make them heal quicker is to use baking soda. The healing properties of baking soda can help to treat pain and inflammation from the affected area on your tongue. Baking soda will also quickly reduce the size of white canker sores.

The Canadian Medical Association Journal published a doctor’s comments on the effectiveness of baking soda for canker sores. Dr. Jennifer MacDonald wrote that, although baking soda stings when applied to canker sores, it’s a home remedy that works.3 This is due to the antibacterial activity of baking soda for elimination of oral ulcers.4

To treat the painful symptoms of canker sores on the back of your tongue, mix 1 teaspoon baking soda with some water to form a thick paste. Apply to the affected area on the tongue where the canker sore is and leave for a few minutes. Rinse your mouth with a glass of water. Do this 2 times a day until the white bump or ulcer has healed completely.

Cold sores

Another type of white or red bump that can affect the back of your tongue is a cold sore. Cold sores, or fever blisters, usually cause sore bumps on the lips or tip of the tongue. However, in some cases, they can affect areas further back in the oral cavity, including the back of your tongue or roof of your mouth.

Dr. Carol DerSarkissian on WebMD says that the cold sores are caused by the herpes simplex virus type 1. The classic symptoms of a cold sore bump on your tongue or mouth are bumps that appear as small gray blisters with a red base. However, before the bump in your mouth or tongue appears, you may have tingling, itching, or pain at the infected spot.5

How to treat cold sores on back of tongue

Getting rid of bumps from the back of your tongue can be challenging because of your gag reflex. However, you can make an effective mouthwash with witch hazel to help heal the sore bumps near the back of your mouth. Witch hazel contains healing properties and is a natural antiseptic and astringent treatment for wounds.

According to the University of Michigan, studies have shown that witch hazel contains compounds that reduce the size of cold sores. By applying witch hazel every day to the fever blister, the length of time that the blisters took to heal was quicker than using a placebo.6

To make the witch hazel mouthwash, mix 1 teaspoon witch hazel in a glass of warm water. Add 1-2 drops of clove oil. Use the natural remedy to gargle, making sure that the witch hazel gets to the back of your tongue and throat. Gargle 2 times a day to help speed up the healing process of cold sore bumps at the back of your tongue.

This witch hazel remedy is also a great gargle to reduce irritation at the back of your throat caused by a canker sore on your tongue.

Cold sores can also affect your lips or your nose, so please read my article on treating cold sores on your lips and in your nose to get quick relief.

Oral thrush

White raised bumps on the back of your tongue are also a symptom of oral thrush. Oral thrush is caused by a candida yeast infection. The symptoms of oral thrush especially affect the back of your mouth and can cause a white substance like cottage cheese on your tongue.

Dr. Minesh Khatri on WebMD says that candida fungus is found in the mouth and an overgrowth of the fungus can cause signs of oral thrush. These include small white lumps at the back of your mouth, on your tongue, inner cheeks, and tonsils. You may also have a feeling of something being stuck in your throat.7

How to treat oral thrush bumps at the back of your tongue

There are several effective home remedies to help clear a candida infection that causes oral thrush.

For example, a study published in the Journal of Medicinal Food found that coconut oil contains antimicrobial properties against Candida infections. In fact, coconut oil was as effective as fluconazole – a popular pharmaceutical drug for treating yeast infections.8

Anti-fungal mouth wash recipe for white bumps on tongue

To get rid of the white bumps from the back of your tongue caused by a yeast infection, you can make your own anti-fungal coconut oil recipe. Mix 1-2 drops cinnamon oil with a tablespoon virgin coconut oil. Swish the remedy around your mouth for 20 minutes to help destroy the yeast overgrowth in your mouth. Spit out into a container and dispose it in the trash can. Brush your teeth as usual. Repeat daily until the oral thrush on your tongue is completely gone.

Get rid of oral thrush bumps using apple cider vinegar (ACV)

Another efficient remedy to get rid of oral thrush, canker sores, and cold sores is raw apple cider vinegar. Apple cider vinegar contains acetic acid which is antifungal and antibacterial. One study from 1990 found that acetic acid was effective in killing off candida yeast infections.

Use apple cider vinegar as a mouth rinse to treat a yeast infection and get rid of white tongue bumps at the back of your mouth. Mix 2 teaspoons raw, unprocessed apple cider vinegar and 1/2 teaspoon salt in a cup of warm water. Gargle the mixture in the back of your throat to help get rid of bumps there. Repeat 2-3 times a day until you notice that all the bumps on your tongue have gone.

For more information on using coconut oil and apple cider vinegar for candida infection, please check out my ultimate guide for using coconut oil to treat yeast infections and my article on how to use apple cider vinegar for yeast infection.


Stress can be a cause of many ailments in your body. Stress can cause or aggravate some of the underlying causes of bumps on the back of your tongue like cold sores, canker sores, and candida infections. However, stress by itself can cause red bumps to appear on your tongue’s surface.

Dr. Dyall-Smith, a dermatologist from New Zealand says that stress causes taste buds on your tongue to become inflamed. This can cause localized swelling, inflammation, or even pain on the back of your tongue or other areas where taste buds are inflamed.9

If you notice that the back of your tongue becomes redder and you have raised bumps on its surface when you are stressed, try some of my natural stress relief remedies or these essential oils to relieve stress to help get rid of the bumps.

Stress isn’t the only reason for inflamed taste buds, there are other reasons for this condition.

Inflamed taste buds

Inflamed taste buds anywhere on your tongue is a condition known medically as transient lingual papillitis. These swollen papillae on the back of tongue are also known as lie bumps.

There are many reasons for these swollen lesions on your tongue. A review of the causes of inflamed taste buds published in the Journal of Clinical and Experimental Dentistry says that digestive problems, fluctuations in hormones, or allergies can all be factors in tongue bumps appearing.10 Some studies have suggested that a viral infection could be also to blame for inflamed taste buds.11

How to treat inflamed taste buds at the back of tongue

Usually, if the inflamed taste buds are causing problems at the back of your mouth because of irritation, removing the trigger is enough to get rid of the swelling. However, there are a number of easy ways to reduce inflammation in tongue bumps.

You can soothe painful bumps at the back of our tongue or on the tip of your tongue by drinking something cooling. So, you could suck on an ice cube or slowly consume a cool drink for a quick relief from discomfort on your tongue.

Doctors also recommend salt water mouth rinses to help reduce inflammation in swollen taste buds.10 All you have to do is mix 1 teaspoon sea salt in a glass of warm water. Rinse your mouth or gargle the home remedy to make sure and treat the bumps on the back of your tongue. Repeat daily until the inflammation has gone and you no longer have sore, red tongue bumps.

You can find more information about inflames taste buds in my article on swollen taste buds: causes and effective treatments.

Squamous cell papilloma

A small growth of red bumps on the back of your tongue could be a squamous cell papilloma. These bumps that can affect the tongue are caused by the human papilloma virus (HPV) and are described in medical literature as noncancerous growths.

According to Dr. Vanessa Ngan from DermNetNZ, squamous cell papillomas can affect any tissue in the oral cavity. They are usually found on the tongue but can also appear on the lips or the inside of the cheeks. They are usually small red or pink bumps on the tongue, but if they grow larger, they can become whitish bumps on the tongue that look like a cauliflower.12

Dr. Ngan says that, unless squamous cell papillomas cause you discomfort or start to spread, the tongue bumps can be left alone.

Scarlet fever

A collection of dark red bumps on the surface of your tongue could be caused by scarlet fever. Because the tongue takes on a red and bumpy appearance, this is sometimes called a strawberry tongue.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a group A Streptococcus bacterial infection is responsible for scarlet fever. The first symptoms are usually a fever and sore throat and the tongue will then become red and bumpy. The red tongue bumps will be seen through a white ‘fur’ that covers the tongue. Following that, a rash usually appears on the body.13

Scarlet fever can turn into a serious medical condition with complications and therefore it’s important to seek prompt medical assistance in this case.

Lymphoepithelial Cysts

A rare type of bump that can affect the back of your tongue is a lymphoepithelial cyst. According to the Bulletin of Tokyo Dental College, lymphoepithelial cysts can affect the back surface of the tongue or on the floor of the mouth. Usually, these cysts can be surgically removed.14

Oral cancer

It is very rare, but a small to large bump, or a blood blister, that doesn’t go away on the back of your tongue or anywhere else in your mouth could be a sign of oral cancer.

According to Dr. Michael Friedman on WebMD, some of the signs of oral cancer are bumps or lumps on areas inside your mouth, persistent sores in the mouth that bleed and don’t heal, or white and red patches on the tongue, inside the cheeks, or in the mouth.14

When to See a Doctor

Fortunately, most problems affecting the tongue are not serious and can be resolved quickly using natural home remedies. However, in some cases, you should see a doctor for bumps on your tongue that cause you concern.

Doctors from the Mayo Clinic recommend visiting your doctor to get your tongue examined in the following circumstances:

  • You get recurring sores anywhere on your tongue that don’t heal well
  • Ulcers or canker sores last for more than 2 weeks
  • You have difficulty eating or drinking because of the bumps on the back of your tongue
  • The back of your tongue swells up in a way that could indicate an allergic reaction
  • A growth or bump on your tongue isn’t resolved by home treatments or it continues to grow

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Article Sources

  1. MayoClinic. Canker sores.
  2. MedicineNet. Canker sores.
  3. CMAJ. 2002 Apr 2; 166(7): 884.
  4. Laryngoscope. 1980 May;90(5 Pt 1):758-68.
  5. WebMD. Guide to oral herpes.
  6. UFOMHealth. Witch hazel.
  7. WebMD. What is thrush?
  8. J Med Food. 2007 Jun;10(2):384-7.
  9. DermNetNZ. Transient lingual papillitis.
  10. J Clin Exp Dent. 2017 Jan; 9(1): e157–e162.
  11. Br J Dermatol. 2004 Feb;150(2):299-303.
  12. DermNetNZ. Squamous cell papilloma.
  13. CDC. Scarlet fever.
  14. Bull Tokyo Dent Coll. 2012;53(1):17-22.
  15. WebMD. Oral cancer.
  16. MayoClinic. Canker sores.

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