Safest Teeth Whiteners
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The surface of the tongue contains tiny bumps called fungiform papillae. These small raised bumps have taste buds and temperature receptors. They also give the tongue a rough texture to help us eat.
Fungiform papillae are normally the same color as the rest of the tongue, but they can become red if irritated. Some conditions can also cause red dots or red bumps on the tongue.
Many conditions, mostly harmless, can cause red dots on the tongue.
These common tongue conditions include:
People with lie bumps have one or more painful, inflamed papillae, often near the tip of the tongue. About 50% of the population develop lie bumps at some point.
The cause of lie bumps is unknown. But they may be triggered by stress, injury, irritation, gastrointestinal disruptions, eating specific foods, or hormone fluctuations.
Most lie bumps resolve on their own after 1 to 2 days, though they may recur weeks to years later. In some cases, applying topical steroids to the bumps may help make them less painful.
Canker sores are painful, small spots that have a yellow or white center with a red border.
People with canker sores may also have sores elsewhere in their mouth, not just their tongue. Burning or tingling sensations a few days before the sore appears is also common.
Most canker sores resolve on their own after a few days to weeks.
People with squamous papilloma develop soft, painless, finger-like projections that sit on a stem or stalk and are pink, red, or white. The human papillomavirus (HPV) causes squamous papillomas.
People with HPV may have growths, such as warts, elsewhere on their body.
Most people don’t require treatment for squamous papillomas. But the growths may be surgically removed or burnt off using lasers if they are large or interfere with eating, talking, or breathing.
Several medical conditions, particularly syphilis, scarlet fever, and HIV, can cause red dots or spots on the tongue.
Syphilis tends to cause painful red sores on the tip of the tongue. Scarlet fever often causes the tongue to become red and bumpy. Many people with acute HIV/AIDS also develop painful sores in the mouth.
People with syphilis, scarlet fever, and HIV/AIDS may also experience:
Bacterial infections cause syphilis and scarlet fever, and you’ll need to take antibiotics to cure the infection. There is no cure for HIV/AIDS, though some medications may help control symptoms and prevent the progression of the disease.
People with eruptive lingual papillitis (ELP) develop enlarged, inflamed bumps on the tongue.
This condition tends to impact young children and their family members the most. Researchers don’t know why eruptive lingual papillitis (ELP) occurs, but it may be related to a virus people catch during childhood. Some people with COVID-19 also develop ELP.
Many people with ELP also experience:
Most symptoms of ELP resolve on their own within 1 week or 2 to 15 days. Symptoms may also recur 1 to 2 months later.
Glossitis causes the tongue to become red, painful, and swollen. It is also sometimes called strawberry tongue.
It may occur due to:
People with glossitis may also experience trouble speaking, chewing, or swallowing, and their tongue may look smoother than normal.
There’s no specific treatment for glossitis. But some habits or medications may help reduce symptoms or prevent it from developing. These include:
Anything that injures the tongue, like biting it or rubbing it against sharp teeth, can cause red dots or bumps.
Depending on the type of injury, pain, swelling, or discoloration elsewhere in the mouth may develop.
Most minor tongue injuries heal on their own. But you may need stitches or surgery in severe cases. You may also need to have rough teeth smoothed out, dentures re-made or repaired, or tooth cavities filled to prevent further injuries.
Mouth cancer can cause sores, reddish patches, and abnormal growths in the mouth and on the tongue. There is no specific known cause of tongue cancer or oral cancer, but tobacco use, heavy alcohol consumption, and HPV all increase the risk of developing it.
People with mouth cancer may also experience:
People with tongue cancer may undergo surgery, chemotherapy, and/or radiation therapy.
In most cases, red dots or bumps on the tongue do not require medical attention. But talk to a doctor if:
A doctor will determine the best treatment for your tongue dots or sores based on what is causing them. To diagnose tongue sores, a doctor or dentist may examine the spots, perform a biopsy, or take swabs to test for bacterial infections.
In many cases, there is no specific treatment for red dots on the tongue, and they heal naturally over time.
But taking antibiotics can treat spots caused by a bacterial infection. If the spots are severe or causing problems, a dentist can surgically remove them.
If the sores are related to a systemic issue such as HIV/AIDS, a doctor may prescribe medications to limit symptoms and slow disease progression.
People with tongue sores related to mouth cancer may undergo surgery, radiation therapy, and/or chemotherapy.
Several at-home remedies may reduce pain and discomfort associated with red dots or bumps on the tongue. Common home remedies include:1
There is often no way to prevent red dots or bumps on the tongue from forming. But some things may reduce their risk of developing, such as:
Many different factors can cause red dots, spots, or growths on the tongue, most of which are harmless.
In most cases, red dots on the tongue heal on their own within a few days to weeks. But if they are severe, cause difficulties with eating or breathing, are very painful, spread over time, or are accompanied by other symptoms, talk to a doctor.
Also talk to a doctor or dentist about any spots or growths on the tongue that don’t heal naturally within a few days to weeks.