Bumps on Side of Tongue

The tongue is one of the most used organs of the body. Although it is positioned internally, it plays the role of talking, manipulating food, kissing and others.

At times, the tongue may develop bumps, ulcers and many other blemishes that may render it unfit to perform most of its roles perfectly. If you have bumps on the side of the tongue, there is a lot you need to know.

What are bumps on side of tongue?

White Bumps on sides of tongue pictures
White bump on the sides of the tongue.

The bumps occur as pimples of different sizes. They can also occur as raised patches. Both pimples and patches will have different colors ranging from white to the normal color of the tongue. Rarely are these bumps flush with the tongue (they are thus raised).

The bumps can also occur anywhere on the tongue. That includes under the tongue, on the tongue, the back, the sides and the tip as well. Their location will be determined by their specific causes among other conditions.


The causes of these white bumps on your tongue lie between harmless responses of the body to signs of a serious illness developing. To be sure, therefore, you will need to watch out for any other symptoms that accompany the bumps such as a burning sensation, pain or inflammation.

When the bumps develop, they can make your tongue highly sensitive to certain tastes such as sourness, saltiness and sweetness. Also, you may find it uncomfortable swallowing, chewing and even talking.

The most probable causes include:

1.     Scarlett fever

Scarlett fever is a bacterial infection (Streptococcus bacteria) which often results into strawberry tongue. The tongue will become swollen, bumpy and red in color. You may also have intense fever a rash on the skin. It is common in children between 5 and 15 years of age.

The general symptoms of this type of infection are:

  • A flushed face
  • Red streaks around the knees, elbows and armpits
  • A sore throat that turns red and has yellow and white patches
  • Chills
  • Swollen tonsils
  • Fever of above 38.3 degrees Celsius (101 degrees Fahrenheit)
  • Headaches
  • Vomiting and nausea
  • The skin around the lips will become pale
  • The glands at the back of the neck will become swollen

You should know that Scarlett fever is contagious and merely being around a person who has it can transfer it to you. When the other person sneezes or coughs and the cough droplets come into contact with you, you will likely have it as well. If these droplets come into contact with the eyes, nose or mouth, they will pass on the infection. You can as well get it if you share utensils with an infected person. Skin contact with an infected person is also another way you may get the disease.

If treated early, this fever will be gone in about a fortnight. If treatment is delayed, there may develop some complications including:

  • Kidney disease
  • Rheumatic fever
  • Ear infections
  • Throat abscesses
  • Skin infections
  • Arthritis
  • Pneumonia

Luckily, you can treat the fever with ease using over-the-counter medications especially antibiotics and others.

2.     Squamous papilloma

The squamous papilloma condition is directly traced to the human papillomavirus (HPV). Often, it is a single bump on the tongue with an irregular shape. The bump can occur on other places in the body including the anal canal, vagina, esophagus, larynx, cervix, oral cavity, lip and the skin in general. It is benign in nature.

This kind of bump is painless and occurs mostly in those between the age of 30 and 50 years of age. Their being benign means that they rarely transform into a cancer or spread to other parts of the body. The specific types of the HPV virus that causes squamous papilloma are HPV-6 and HPV-11.

The condition has no treatment although the bump can be removed using:

  • Laser ablation
  • Surgical excision
  • Cryotherapy
  • Use of a topical salicylic acid and many others.

The bump in the mouth is often the only symptom of this condition as there are rarely any symptoms of an infection by the HPV virus.

3.     Traumatic fibroma

When the tongue has a growth that is smooth and pink in color due to chronic irritation, the condition is called traumatic fibroma. This condition is quite difficult to diagnose hence the need for a biopsy.

If the need arises, the growth may be removed via a surgical procedure.

4.     Tongue piercing

When you pierce your tongue, there is always the chance that it will be infected if proper care is not taken. Tongue piercings such as frenulum linguae piercing, vertical and horizontal tongue piercing, midline tongue piercing, tongue web piercing, side tongue piercing and others may develop white bumps around the pierced area as a sign of infection.

You will know that it is an infection when you see the following signs and symptoms:

  • Redness
  • Swelling
  • Itching
  • Discharge of a green or yellow color
  • Pain
  • Bleeding

The moment you see any of these signs, first consult with your piercer who will advise you accordingly then with the doctor if the need arises.

Piercing the mouth or anywhere else on the body requires a lot of care and proper hygiene to keep infections at bay. Make sure you do the following:

  • Ensure that the equipment being used to make the piercing are sterilized before being used on you.
  • Use mouthwash that is non-alcoholic at least three time a day and before going to bed.
  • Make a sea-salt solution that you can use to rinse the mouth in the absence of mouthwash. Make sure the sea salt has no iodine as it may affect you negatively. In the absence of mouthwash and sea salt, buy H2Ocean which is a sea salt solution for this particular purpose.
  • Avoid touching the piercing as much as possible. If you have to, ensure your hands have been washed and dried.
  • Only change the jewelry when the piercing has healed. Also, ensure you get the right type of jewelry for your piercing. Cheap jewelry may end up just harming you.

Follow any other instructions given by the piercer or the doctor to keep your tongue piercing free of infections.

5.     Glossitis

On occasion, your tongue might turn smoother than it should be rather than bumpy. Afterwards, the smoothness will be gone and bumps will be present. The condition that causes the smoothness is called glossitis which is caused by:

  • Infections
  • Irritants like smoking and alcohol consumption
  • Allergic reactions

If this condition does not go away easily or recurs, it is advisable to see a doctor over it.

6.     Oral thrush

One of the main symptoms of oral thrush is bumps on the tongue. Thrush is a fungal infection which often leads to bumps which will be covered by a coating of a yellow or white color. While it can affect many other parts of the body, it affects the tonsils, palate and gums when it infects the mouth.

Oral thrush is caused by a variant of yeast of the candida family. When infected, you will notice one of the following symptoms:

  • Loss of taste
  • Pain in the areas affected
  • White patches in the mouth
  • Cracks on the mouth especially the corners

Among the factors that may lead to this condition include:

  • Wearing dentures
  • Poor oral hygiene
  • Dry mouth
  • Taking antibiotics for too long
  • Smoking
  • Having a weak immune system
  • Undergoing cancer treatments such as radiotherapy and chemotherapy

Oral thrush is easy to deal with given the right diagnosis. You can prevent it with the following methods:

  • Practicing proper oral hygiene
  • Quitting drinking and smoking
  • Treating any other diseases you have early enough
  • Regulating the use of antibiotics

With these routines, you will easily manage oral thrush.

7.     Lymphoepithelial cysts

Lymphoepithelial cysts are growths of a yellow color which appear under the tongue. At the moment, the actual cause of these cysts is not known although they are benign and can be removed surgically.

8.     Oral cancer

When the bumps you have on your tongue or the rest of the mouth are red or white in color and do not go away, there are chances that you have oral cancer. This type of cancer affects various parts of the mouth such as the floor of the tongue, the cheeks, tongue and the lips.

Among the symptoms of oral cancer are:

  • Hoarseness
  • White or red bumps on the tongue
  • A sore throat
  • Difficulty with food chewing or swallowing
  • Loss of weight
  • Soreness that is persistent
  • Numbness

The likelihood of having this kind of cancer will go up with the following conditions:

  • Smoking (even smokeless tobacco)
  • Consumption of too much alcohol
  • Too much exposure to the sun
  • Having some medical conditions like human papilloma virus
  • A family history of cancer

This shows that the occurrence of oral cancer can be controlled by your behavior. Quitting smoking and the consumption of alcohol is a good place to start your preventive routine.

If the sores or bumps in the mouth do not go away, or they go away only to reappear, see your doctor as fast as possible. While oral cancer can be treated early on with methods such as radiotherapy, chemotherapy or surgery, letting it develop further only makes it hard to deal with it.

9.     Canker sores

Bumps on the tongue and other parts of the mouth can also be caused by canker sores. While the actual cause of canker sores is not known, they are often triggered by various conditions among them a poor immune system, hormonal imbalances, injury to the tongue, allergic reactions, stress among others.

Canker sores are bound to heal on their own in about a week without medication. While you may speed up the healing process with painkillers and over-the-counter medication, there is no need for that since some medicines may be the actual cause of the canker sores.

10.  Lie bumps

Often called transient lingual papillitis, the white bumps which develop on the tongue may be due to the swelling of the papillae mainly due to irritations in the mouth. Among the causes of the irritations are food allergies, hormonal imbalances and even stress.

The presence of lie bumps is not something you should be worried with given that they come and go without the need for treatment. Unless you observe any other major symptoms with the lie bumps, you need not worry.

Transient lingual paillitis is common in people of all ages.

11.  Poor oral hygiene

It is surprising the number of people who brush their teeth without cleaning their tongue, and those who do not clean their mouth in general. Without proper oral hygiene, debris among them dead cells and food particles will accumulate on your tongue. On their own, these debris give the tongue a bumpy whitish look.

Besides that, the debris will increase your chances of infections. Bacteria and most other micro-organisms will thrive in such poorly cleaned conditions. The warm and wet conditions of the mouth encourage the growth of such microorganisms which can easily lead to infections.

12.  Syphilis

Syphilis, one of the most dreaded sexually transmitted illnesses, is often characterized by painless bumps on various parts of the body the mouth and genitals included. Another major symptom of this diseases is the presence of white patches in your mouth. The soles of the feet and the palms may have a red rash.

As the diseases advances from the first to the second stage, the bumps on the body will go away only to come back as the second stage commences.

While easily curable during its early days (using antibiotics for example), syphilis can easily advance to a more severe variant which will be hard to eradicate. While undergoing treatment, there is the need to refrain from sexual activity till you are healed completely.

13.  Alcohol consumption and smoking

When you smoke (tobacco, weed, meth and the likes) and take alcohol, you irritate the taste buds which are located on the tongue. They become swollen and will thus trap dead cells and food particles such that they appear white in color.

Besides that, smoking and consuming alcohol increase your chances of having cancer of the mouth (oral cancer). Like all other types of cancer, oral cancer is not curable. Its symptoms include white bumps in the mouth with the tongue included. Quitting the smoke and the bottle will go a long way in keeping oral cancer at bay.

14.  Allergic reactions

If you are allergic to something, the body has various ways of responding to the presence of the allergen. Allergens found in medicines, dental care products or some foods and drinks can often cause bumps whenever they come into contact with the tongue.

Often, the bumps on the tongue that will be caused by an allergic reaction increase in size towards the back of your tongue. The bumps will also be accompanied by other symptoms such as a running nose, a rash on the skin, a sore throat, vomiting and nausea among others.

While mild allergic reactions as easy to deal with (by taking antihistamines for example), extreme cases may require visiting a doctor especially when you experience pain in the chest and difficulties with breathing.

15.  Tongue injuries

Given the position and roles played by the tongue, the likelihood of injury is always there. You may injure your tongue while chewing food, talking, cleaning your mouth or even when wearing dentures. The irritations any of these injuries will have on the tongue will often lead to bumps on the tongue and the rest of the mouth.

Most tongue injuries will have other symptoms besides the bumps. These include a burning sensation and pain that increases with heat such as from food.

Most injuries will take a while to heal. You can accelerate the healing process using over-the-counter medicine and antiseptic mouthwash. With time, the bumps will go away. It is also good to know that the tongue heals quite fast compared to other internal organs.

Any of these conditions can lead to bumps on side of tongue or any other part of the same organ. The bumps may even spread to the rest of the mouth save for when they are benign.

Treating bumps on side of tongue

No matter where the bumps appear on the tongue (side, underneath, on top), you will need to get rid of them. Medically, you will need medicines which will depend on the cause of the bumps. At times, methods such as surgery may need to be employed to deal with the issue.

At home, however, you have several remedies you can put to use for the best results. They include:

a)     Over-the-counter solutions

Antiseptics can be bought from most shops to help speed up the healing process. Anti-inflammatory drugs such as Zilactin and Oral base can be applied on the tongue to prevent and reduce irritations.

It is advisable to consult on the use of most over-the-counter remedies.

b)    Keep off irritants

A lot of foods irritate the tongue and mouth in general. Foods with a lot of acid such as citrus fruits, tomatoes, sodas, coffee and the likes will only make the condition worse. Intense mint, pepper and chili will also irritate the tongue and elongate the healing process.

Alcohol and smoking should also be avoided as much as possible. If you are allergic to any food, ensure you do not have it during such a time. A good number of people are allergic to wheat, eggs and shellfish hence the need to refrain from consuming them.

c)     Use mint leaves

Unknown to many, mint leaves have both antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties which will play major roles in the healing process of the bumps on your tongue. Simply chew them before going to bed until you see any changes.

The fact that there are many sweets and confectionaries with mint in them does not mean that they have the same effect on the bumps. They have sugars and other additives which may irritate the tongue or fuel the infections.

d)    Select the food you eat

When you have bumps on your tongue, you will likely feel some pain due to the inflammation the bumps often come with. To remedy that, you can pick on cold and soft foods as they help soothe away the inflammation. For instance, drinking iced water will numb away the pain even if it is for a short while.

Hard foods such as chips, nuts or hot ones will tend to flare the infection up.

Of note is the fact that sugary foods are not good with the bumps as they may lead to infections such as oral thrush. Sugary conditions are conducive for the thriving of most bacteria. Besides infecting the tongue, they may lead to tooth decay and other oral issues.

e)     Oral hygiene

Proper oral hygiene will ensure that you keep at bay most issues in your mouth. Besides taking good care of your teeth, you will need to clean your tongue after every meal with a soft-bristle brush. The brush removes any bumps that may harbor debris and germs thus keeping the tongue clean and healthy. The use of a tongue scraper is also recommended as it helps get rid of germs off the tongue.

You can also use mouthwash at least two times each day to rinse the mouth. Good mouthwash helps in killing bacteria and other harmful microorganisms. Ensure that the mouthwash is alcohol-free since the alcohol can easily irritate the mouth causing further harm.

If you cannot access the right type of mouthwash, find non-iodized sea salt and make a solution with it. You can gargle the solution at least twice a day for a healthy mouth.


Practicing proper oral hygiene goes a long way in keeping at bay most of the oral issues you may have in the mouth such as bumps on the tongue. Even with that, the moment you have any of the bumps in your mouth you need to consult your doctor as fast as possible. The likelihood that you are harboring a serious condition such as oral cancer is there.


Oral cancer.