Are Swollen Taste Buds a Real Thing?

Your taste buds (which allow you to enjoy various flavors) are located on the tiny round bumps at the back of your tongue (called papillae). Your taste buds can be swollen due to irritation of the taste buds, or they can be damaged or burned. Taste buds typically regenerate every week or two. But they can be damaged in several ways. There are small projections in the taste buds that are a bit like hairs. They send messages to the brain – particularly about tastes. If they are damaged, you cannot taste your food. Swollen taste buds are not uncommon. The National Institutes of Health tongue of purple smiley- pixabay cco - 42842 1280estimates that 200,000 people seek treatment for problems with their sense of taste.

What irritates taste buds sufficiently to cause swelling? Here are some common causes of taste bud irritation.

  • Dry mouth
  • Burns, cuts or injuries to your mouth or tongue that cause swelling and inflammation.
  • Acid that rises up the throat due to acid reflux
  • Eating very spicy foods or very spicy foods
  • Eating extremely hot or cold food or drinking very hot or cold beverages
  • Infections (flu, colds, fungal infection, bacterial infection)
  • Smoking
  • Poor oral hygiene
  • Dental problems
  • Medications that are highly acidic on your tongue

The taste buds can be white or bright red in appearance. They may also have blisters filled with fluid (pustules on the tongue). Under normal conditions taste buds are not visible to the naked eye.

Because your body regenerates the taste buds regularly, swollen taste buds typically resolve quickly on their own. If, however, you have long-term swelling or your sense of smell is also affected, you should see a doctor. Swollen taste buds are sometimes symptoms of tongue cancer, which makes it critical that you see a doctor or dentist for long-term symptoms.

Treatment for swollen taste buds is determined by the cause of the problem. If the cause is infection, for example, the appropriate treatment is antibiotics. In some cases other medications may be prescribed to reduce the swelling. Other treatments may include:

  • Quit smoking
  • Brush and floss your teeth at least twice each day
  • Use a special toothpaste and rinse to treat chronic dry mouth
  • Using a warm salt water gargle several times each day
  • Hold ice chips on your tongue to reduce the swelling
  • Take medication to reduce acid reflux

Your doctor or dentist will talk with you about the best treatment options for you.

If you believe your chronic compromised sense of taste might be due to swollen taste buds, come in. Let’s determine the cause and find the right treatment for you.