Bumps on Back of Tongue: White, Red, Black or Sore Throat

Have you ever looked in the mirror and noticed small bumps on the back of your tongue? If so, you’re not alone. These bumps, also known as papillae, are a normal part of the tongue’s anatomy. But if they become enlarged or inflamed, they can be a cause for concern.

In this article, we’ll dive into the world of bumps on the back of the tongue, exploring what they are, what causes them, and when you should seek medical attention. From common conditions like oral thrush and canker sores to more serious issues like oral cancer, we’ll cover it all.

Bumps on Back of Tongue: White, Red, Black Causes and Treatments
Bumps on Back of Tongue: White, Red, Black Causes and Treatments

What are Bumps on the Back of Tongue?

Bumps on the back of the tongue can be a common occurrence and are typically harmless. They are often caused by inflamed papillae, which are small, nipple-like structures on the top and sides of the tongue.

These bumps can be caused by a variety of things, such as eating too many acidic or spicy foods, drinking too much alcohol, smoking, or even having a Vitamin B-12 deficiency. They can also be caused by a yeast or bacterial infection in the mouth.

Most bumps on the back of the tongue are benign and will usually go away on their own, but in some cases, they can be a sign of a more serious condition.

What Cause White Coating or Bumps on the Tongue?

Here are common causes of white bumps on the tongue.

1. Canker Sores

Canker sores, also known as aphthous ulcers, are a common cause of bumps on the tongue. They can appear anywhere in your mouth, on or under the tongue. These small ulcers can cause white bumps on the tongue, which hurts. These bumps usually have a white or gray center with a red outline. (1)

This condition can be very painful and makes a tingling or burning sensation when irritated or inflamed. Although not contagious, they could make your talking and eating difficult.

Minor canker sores are usually small and oval-shaped. They can disappear within ten days without treatment. Major canker sores are deeper and larger, usually with defined borders. They are extremely painful and may take a longer time to heal. (2)

The exact causes of canker sores are still unknown; however, many experts believe they are related to some factors. For example, vitamin deficiency, poor diet, too much stress, smoking, hormonal changes, and taking some medicines can be the reasons.

You could rinse your mouth with salt water to heal the canker sores fast. This can help remove inflammation and relieve pain.

Avoid spicy, acidic, and other abrasive foods to prevent further pain and inflammation. Make sure you use a soft toothbrush when brushing your teeth. If you develop huge canker sores, persistent sores, and high fever, visit your doctor for diagnosis and treatment. (3)

2. Oral Thrush

Oral thrush is also known as oral candidiasis. It is a fungal infection caused by candida fungus, also known as yeast. This condition usually causes large bumps and white or red coating like “cottage cheese” on the back of your tongue.

Avoid scraping off these coatings. Otherwise, the tissue may turn red and even bleed. You may also notice white patches or red spots on the tongue, tonsil, or inner cheeks. The cracks at the corners of your mouth are also signs of Oral Thrush.

Oral thrush usually appears on your gums, tongue, tonsils, the roof of the mouth, or the insides of the cheeks. These fast-growing bumps might make you feel pain and affect your ability to taste. You may also feel a burning sensation and something stuck in your throat. It can also lead to vaginal yeast infections in women and diaper rash in infants. (4)

Although oral thrush can affect anyone, it is most commonly seen in older adults, infants, and people with weakened immune systems.

Other reasons that can increase the risk of oral thrush include heavy smoking, wearing dentures, taking antibiotics, taking birth control pills, and taking an inhaled steroid. These factors could disturb the balance of microorganisms in your mouth, thereby leading to fungus candida which causes thrush. (5)

Some illnesses, such as diabetes, dry mouth, HIV infection, and cancer, can also lead to oral thrush. In addition, Hormonal changes during pregnancy or passed from babies during breastfeeding can also cause oral thrush.

To treat oral thrush, it is essential to inhibit the growth of the fungus. You can take some antifungal medications to treat thrush. Usually, you need to take it for 10 to 14 days to see the effect.

Avoid foods that promote Candida growth, like foods containing sugar and yeast, such as beer, refined white sugar, and bread. Eat more fermented foods and plain yogurt, which can help treat yeast infections and prevent stomatitis. (6)

3. Leukoplakia

Leukoplakia is a disease caused by the excessive growth of oral cells. You may notice thick white patches in your mouth, lips, gums, cheeks, or wrinkled patches on the tongue.

After some time, these patches will become thick and hard. These patches are less painful. However, they are sensitive to touch, spicy or hot food. Try to avoid irritating the tongue, as this will make leukoplakia develop. (7)

The common causes of leukoplakia include viral infection, candida infections, heavy smoking, too much alcohol, deficiency of vitamins, oral thrush, AIDS, oral lichen planus, and oral cancer. (8)

Although the bumps usually do not affect your life, they may be a precursor to a severe problem such as oral cancer. You should consult your dentist for a check-up.

You can eat more fresh fruit and vegetables, which can help improve your immune system. Try to avoid heavy smoking, too much alcohol, and excessive tobacco. Pay attention to your oral hygiene and brush your teeth twice a day. (9)

4. Cold Sores

These are also known as fever blisters. Cold sores are viral infections that may cause white or red bumps on the back of the tongue.

These small fluid-filled blisters appear on or around the lips. You may also notice red bumps grouped in patches. When these blisters break, they create crusts, resulting in tingling, itching, and pain on your tongue.

According to the doctor from WebMD, the common cause of cold sores is herpes simplex virus (HSV-1), but HSV-2 can also cause it. The infection spreads from one person to another through direct contact, such as kissing. People with a strong immune system do not usually develop signs and symptoms.

The virus lies dormant in the nerve cells. Its occurrence may be triggered by fever or viral infection, stress and fatigue, weakened immune system, hormonal changes, or exposure to wind and sunlight.

Cold sores often disappear within four weeks without scarring. But the virus will remain in your nerve cells. Antiviral drugs that can help accelerate the healing process include Valacyclovir (Valtrex), Acyclovir (Zovirax, Xerese), Famciclovir (Famvir), and Penciclovir (Denavir). (10)

The use of witch hazel is an effective method of removing the sore bumps in your mouth. It has anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties that can help reduce the size of cold sores on your tongue. It also has healing properties that can help heal wounds fast.

Mix 1 teaspoon of witch hazel and one drop of clove oil in a glass of warm water. Use this mixture to gargle in the morning and evening. Make sure you rinse your throat and tongue. This can also reduce the irritation in your throat caused by a canker sore.

5. A Sore Throat or Strep Throat

Sometimes, a sore throat or strep throat could be the reason for the bumps on your tongue, and your throat feels congested.

A sore throat is usually caused by a viral like a cold. You may notice white spots or bumps in your throat. A sore throat can lead to postnasal drip, a condition of mucous congestion. A mean or a seasonal allergy usually causes it. For a sore throat, you can gargle your mouth with salt water to relieve the symptoms. (11)

Strep throat is generally caused by the infection of bacteria in the mouth. It is always more severe and lasts longer. If bacteria like strep throat cause it, you will see a red and swollen tonsil. You may also notice tiny white spots on the throat and tongue. If you have symptoms like strep throat, you’d better see your doctor immediately. (12)

6. STD

STDs such as Syphilis, gonorrhea, and HIV can also cause white and painless bumps on the tongue. This condition usually accompanies symptoms such as a sore throat, rashes on the genitals, and swollen lymph nodes. You may also notice them on the lips, vagina, and vulva. (13)

STDs such as Syphilis, gonorrhea, and HIV can also cause white and painless bumps on the tongue. This condition is usually accompanied by other symptoms such as a sore throat, rashes on the genitals, and swollen lymph nodes. You may also notice them on the lips, vagina, and vulva. (13)


Syphilis is a common cause of white bumps on the tongue. It begins as a painless sore around the genital area, mouth, or rectum. This condition is a bacterial infection caused by Treponema pallidum.

Syphilis is a sexually transmitted disease. It may also spread by mucous membranes or skin contact with the sores. After direct contact, the syphilis bacteria lie dormant for years before becoming active. (14)

Syphilis occurs in stages that may overlap. Signs and symptoms may also occur in different orders.

  • Primary syphilis– Some painless small sores develop at the exact spot where the syphilis bacteria enter the body. These usually appear after three weeks of exposure.
  • Secondary syphilis– Some rashes may start on the trunk and gradually cover other areas of the body, including the soles of the feet and palms of your hands. At this stage, sores may appear in the genital area or mouth. You may also experience muscle pain, swollen lymph nodes, fever, and hair loss. These symptoms may disappear after a few weeks but may come back again.
  • Latent syphilis– The disease will move to the latent syphilis stage without treatment. During this phase, no symptoms will develop, and the condition may progress to the tertiary phase.
  • Tertiary syphilis– Individuals who do not get proper treatment may experience tertiary syphilis(late-stage). During this phase, the disease may affect your nerves, brain, blood vessels, heart, joints, liver, and bones.
  • Congenital syphilis– Infected infants acquire the condition during birth or through the placenta. Rashes may appear on the soles of feet and palms of hands. Later signs and symptoms may include saddle nose, deafness, and teeth deformities.

Without prompt treatment, syphilis can damage the brain, heart, and other vital organs. It can also be passed to an unborn baby. If you experience any signs and symptoms of syphilis, see a doctor immediately for diagnosis and the proper treatment.

Penicillin and antibiotic medication can kill the harmful organisms that cause the condition. Your doctor may also prescribe another antibiotic if you are allergic to penicillin.


HIV can also cause white bumps at the back of the tongue in the mouth. This condition is also a sexually transmitted disease. Other common symptoms of HIV include a dry cough, sore throat, fatigue, pneumonia, and rapid weight loss.

Oral Herpes

Oral herpes is a common viral infection. It is usually caused by herpes simplex. Oral herpes can also lead to painful white ulcers and bump at the back of the tongue near the throat. This condition usually lasts 1-2 weeks and is accompanied by fever. (15)

Red Bump on the Back of Tongue
Red Bumps on the Back of Tongue

What Causes Red Bumps on the Back of the Tongue?

The common causes of red bumps on the tongue include:

1. Scarlet Fever

If you suffer from red bumps on the back of your tongue, scarlet fever may be the cause. Its appearance looks like a strawberry, also known as a strawberry tongue. This condition is usually caused by a group A Streptococcus bacterial infection. Scarlet fever often occurs in children between 5 to 15 years old, as their immunity is weaker at this stage. (16)

The initial symptoms of scarlet fever are usually a rash on the chest or abdomen. Then they may spread throughout your entire body. You may also suffer from a fever, sore throat, or enlarged lymph nodes.

If left untreated, this condition will lead to severe health problems that affect the kidneys, heart, and other vital body organs.  See a doctor if your sore throat is severe and accompanied by a 38.9 C (102 F) fever or higher. Your doctor may prescribe an antibiotic to get rid of this infection.

2. Kawasaki Syndrome

Kawasaki syndrome is an autoimmune disease that is common in children below the age of five years. This disease can affect the blood vessels in the body and cause red and enlarged bumps in the back of the mouth. (17)

Common symptoms include high fever, cracked lips, swelling of the palms, swollen lymph nodes, and redness in the feet. This is a severe disease. If left untreated, it will endanger life. You should visit your doctor immediately.

3. Geographic Tongue

Geographic tongue is an inflammation of the tongue. This condition could cause the red spots on the tongue’s surface to look like a map. And the lesions usually move from one place to another part of your tongue. So it is also called benign migratory glossitis.

This condition usually causes red, smooth, and irregularly shaped lesions on your tongue. You may also notice tiny pinkish-white bumps with a white border around them. These patches may also move over time. (18)

For some people, the geographic tongue does not show any symptoms. For others, it will make them feel discomfort, pain, or a burning sensation when they eat spicy or acidic foods. This problem may disappear by itself, but it may appear again later.

The exact cause of Geographic tongue is still unknown. But many types of research show that it is related to psoriasis and lichen planus. Though this condition is usually harmless, it may indicate other severe tongue diseases. You’d better see your doctor or dentist as soon as possible.

4. Squamous Cell Papilloma

Squamous cell papilloma could cause small, red, or pink bumps on the back of the tongue. It is the result of the Human Papillomavirus (HPV) infection.

This infection occurs when the virus penetrates the body through a small tear in the skin, abrasion, or a cut. The virus is commonly transferred by direct skin contact. There is no cure for HPV, but its symptoms can be alleviated. (19)

The noncancerous growths usually occur on the tongue but can also develop on the inside of the cheeks and your lips. The bumps are typically pink or red, but when they growrotheyhe, they become whitish and look similar to cauliflower. Rarely, papillomas in the throat area multiply and may interfere with breathing.

See your doctor if you experience severe symptoms. The tongue bumps caused by HPV infection can be left alone unless they start to spread or cause discomfort.

5. Vitamin Deficiencies

Vitamin B12 is one of the essential vitamins needed by the body. It plays a vital role in the production of red blood cells. Vitamin B12 deficiency could cause anemia, which can cause a reddish sore on the side of the tongue.

You may notice blood spots under your tongue. In addition, deficiencies of folic acid and iron can also lead to red bumps on your tongue. This is common in the elderly. (20)

You can find Vitamin B12 in many animal foods such as eggs, fish, poultry, meats, and some plant-based milk.

6. Bumpy Tongue Due to Allergy

Sometimes bumps on the back of the tongue may result from an allergic reaction. Some allergens, such as certain medications, drugs, or foods, can cause raised and uncomfortable red bumps on your tongue. (21)

These bumps may appear within a few minutes after your tongue contacts the irritant. You may see large lumps in your throat and swelling on your face. People suffering from oral hypersensitivity syndrome are prone to this condition.

To eliminate the bumpy tongue from allergies, you should determine what led to the allergic reaction. Then avoid this medication or foods next time. Taking vitamin C can help improve your immunity and reduce allergic reactions. You need to see your doctor immediately if you have a severe allergic reaction.

Black Hairy or Coated Tongue
Black Hairy or Coated Tongue

What Causes a Black Hairy or Coated Tongue?

What does a black bump on the tongue mean? Although it looks scary, a black hairy tongue is not severe. It is harmless, and it usually happens in people with bad dental hygiene. This condition is often accompanied by bad breath.

An overgrowth of bacteria and yeast usually causes a black hairy tongue. For some people, the papillae may grow excessively long, leading to them growing bacteria more easily. This will lead to dark spots on the tongue.

Excessive smoking can irritate the tongue and cause a black hairy or coated tongue. It might cause many other oral conditions, such as a sore throat and tongue cancer. When the tobacco pigment or bacteria accumulate on the tongue, it usually develops a black hairy tongue. (22)

In addition, people with diabetes or who use antibiotics are prone to have a black tongue. You can get rid of the black hairy tongue by brushing with diluted hydrogen peroxide in most cases.

a Sore or Bumpy Tongue
a Sore or Bumpy Tongue

What Causes a Sore or Bumpy Tongue?

Sometimes, raised bumps on the tongue can make your tongue sore or painful. There are many common reasons, including:

1. Trauma

Trauma is a common cause of painful bumps on the tongue. For example, burning and brushing your teeth too hard can cause bumps and soreness when accidentally biting your tongue.

Fortunately, these bumps are temporary and can disappear on their own. You can also rinse the bumps with salt water or an antiseptic mouthwash to speed up the healing process. This can also help prevent oral infection.

2. Enlarged Papillae on the Back of the Tongue

Things like food allergies or hormonal imbalances can lead to enlarged papillae on the tongue. It is common for children below five years. You may also notice a fever and swollen glands. This condition is not a severe problem, as it will disappear within 5-7 days. (23)

3. Swollen Tonsils

Bacterial or viral infection can cause acute inflammation of the tonsils. This will lead to swollen tonsils and bumps on the tongue, and you will feel like something is stuck in your throat. The most common cause of this infection is strep throat. (24)

You can drink plenty of water, sleep well, consume vitamins C, and take more fruits and vegetables to eliminate these swollen tonsils.

4. Oral Cancer

Oral cancer is the growth of mouth cells or sores that do not go away. It can develop in any part of the mouth, such as the tongue, inner cheeks, lips, roof of the mouth, the floor of the mouth, and gums.

Oral cancer occurs when cells in the mouth or on the lips develop DNA changes. The mutations let cancer cells grow continuously while damaging surrounding tissues. The accumulation of cancer cells creates a tumor. It may spread to other areas of the mouth, neck, head, and body parts without prompt treatment. (25)

Other symptoms of oral cancer may include:

  • Bleeding sore
  • A sore that does not heal
  • A lump, growth, or thickening of the lining of the mouth or skin
  • Tongue pain
  • Jaw stiffness or pain
  • Difficulty in chewing or swallowing
  • A sore throat
  • Loose teeth
  • Poorly fitting dentures

If you have persistent symptoms that last more than two weeks, this may be an early sign of oral cancer. You should see your doctor for proper diagnosis and treatment immediately.

5. Lie Bumps (Transient Lingual Papillitis)

Lie bumps commonly cause white or red bumps on the tongue. According to a survey, nearly 50% of people will experience life bumps in their lifetime, especially in childhood. These bumps usually cause a cluster of bumps on the tongue. (26)

When the papillae are irritated, they will become slightly swollen and lead to lying bumps. Usually, they can be painful and uncomfortable. Sometimes even if you do not drink or eat, they will make you feel pain.

Fortunately, lie bumps are not severe. It usually doesn’t require any treatment and disappears within two weeks, but it may recur later. You should see your doctor if they do not clear up after three weeks.

Transient lingual papillitis can be caused by high-stress levels, hormones, trauma, viral infection, overeating spicy foods, and sugary foods. Other possible causes are food allergies and gastrointestinal complications. Lie bumps are usually accompanied by fever and swollen glands and are likely contagious.

Some people wonder whether they can pop the lie bumps. This is not recommended as the tongue is very vascular. Poping might cause bleeding profusely. In most cases, over-the-counter treatments and home remedies can reduce the symptoms and speed up recovery.

You can gargle and rinse with salt water, brush your teeth at least two times a day or take some OTC topical treatments, such as Zilactin.

Avoid irritating foods and see your doctor if the symptoms of lie bumps do not go away after a week. If lie bumps accompany other symptoms like fever and swollen glands, this condition may be eruptive lingual papillitis.

6. Glossitis

Glossitis may cause small bumps on the tongue. It could cause inflammation, swelling, and redness of the tongue. Severe inflammation may result in difficulty in eating and speaking. (27)

The common causes of glossitis include allergic reactions to food, medications, other irritants, iron deficiency, certain diseases like herpes simplex virus infection, and mouth trauma.

Other symptoms of glossitis include:

  • Swelling of the tongue
  • Tenderness or pain in the tongue
  • Tongue discoloration
  • Difficulty in eating, speaking or swallowing
  • Loss of papillae on the tongue

Brushing your teeth and flossing several times a day can improve the health of your gums, teeth, and tongue. In addition, you can also take some antibiotics to get rid of glossitis.

7. Burning Tongue Syndrome

This syndrome usually happens in some postmenopausal women. The main symptoms are severe burning or scalding feelings in the tongue. In addition, it may also affect your gums, palate, lips, throat, inside of cheeks, or whole mouth. (28)

The burning sensation can also lead to a dry mouth, a bitter or metallic taste in the mouth, or even loss of taste.

Other Causes For Bumps on Tongue

The common causes of bumps on the tongue are listed above, but there are a few other causes, which include:

1. Natural Bumps

We all have lingual tonsils, round lymphatic tissue, taste buds, and papillae at the back of the tongue that will look like bumps. And some people have larger taste buds than others, meaning they have larger tongue bumps. Sometimes the taste buds may become large when you eat spicy foods. These bumps are all-natural bumps you don’t need to worry about. The natural bumps are usually pink and reddish on the surface or the tongue.

2. Warts

Warts are a common infection and can occur anywhere in the mouth, including on the tongue. The most common cause is placing an infected finger in your mouth. In addition, performing oral sex with someone with genital warts can lead to warts in the mouth. (29)

Warts in the mouth usually have raised bumps that look smooth, spiked, or wrinkled. They will appear as a single growth or in clusters. Warts have a slightly different color compared to nearby tissues, and you can distinguish them easily.

3. Acid Reflux or Gastroesophageal Reflux (GERD)

Sometimes, acid reflux or gastroesophageal reflux can also cause bumps on the tongue. When you suffer from acid reflux or gastroesophageal reflux, the acid in the stomach may back up into your esophagus or mouth. This will burn the papillae and cause a white, red, or yellow patch on the top or back of the tongue. (30)

You can reduce the symptoms of Acid Reflux by changing your lifestyle and taking some over-the-counter medications. Some antacids such as Alka-Seltzer, Rolaids, or Mylanta can help neutralize the acid in your stomach. Make sure not to overuse them. Otherwise, they may cause diarrhea or constipation. You can take some antacids containing magnesium or aluminum hydroxide to help counteract these side effects.

4. Bumps on the Back of the Tongue during Pregnancy

Hormonal changes in the body during pregnancy can easily lead to bumps on the tongue. This can also be caused by oral cancer, allergic reaction, stress, oral cancer, enlarged papillae, or yeast infection.

You should consult your doctor to have an examination. Left untreated, it may affect the fetus’s health and leads to miscarriage in severe cases.

5. Bumps on the Back of the Tongue in Babies

Bumps on babies’ tongues can be caused by canker sores, inflamed papillae, and Kawasaki syndrome. Kawasaki diseases are the most common reason for bumps on children’s tongues, especially those under five years old.

This condition can make it difficult for babies during feeding, especially swallowing. You should see your pediatrician to have your child diagnosed.

Home Remedies for Bumps on the Tongue

Treatment of bumps on the tongue depends on the exact causes. However, you can try some home remedies to speed up the healing process. Maintaining healthy living is the most effective way to prevent bumps from appearing. Remember that if the spots are severe, you must see your doctor immediately.

  • Maintain good oral hygiene. Use dental floss to keep your teeth and gums healthy. Gargle with warm salty water 3 to 4 times daily. Saline solution has antibacterial properties that can help reduce inflammation and remove tongue bumps. Brush your teeth with toothpaste in the morning and evening.
  • Drink liquids that are cold or cool. This can help reduce inflammation and soothe the tongue bumps naturally. Drinking at least 8 cups of water daily can help keep yourself hydrated.
  • Cold compress. Put ice chips or ice cubes on the surface of your swollen bumps. This can help reduce inflammation, swelling, and pain.
  • Eat foods that are cold and soothing. Soothing foods like yogurt, ice cream, and milk can help relieve your discomfort and pain in the mouth.
  • Avoid food that increases discomfort. Some foods or products, such as coffee, tobacco, and spicy or acidic foods, may make your swelling tongue bumps worse. You should avoid these allergen foods if your bulges result from a food allergy.
  • Reduce smoking, and use mouthwash to clean the bacteria and toxins immediately after smoking.
  • For canker sores, you can rub the antihistamine ointment onto the bumps to soothe the sores. You can take antibiotics or viral drugs to treat bacterial or yeast infections. You can take antifungal medications to get rid of the bumps for oral thrush. Make sure to consult your doctor first and then follow the doctor’s prescriptions.
  • The mint leaves have anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties, and chewing mint leaves can relieve pain and prevent infection.
  • Use tea tree, eucalyptus, and peppermint essential oils to remove your thrush; they have antifungal and antiviral properties.
  • Go to the dentist’s office to do a Candida cleansing. This can help remove excess candida and avoid oral thrush.
  • To a hospital or dental office for a full check to identify potential health problems.

When to See Your Doctor

In most cases, the bumps on the back of the tongue are not severe. You can remove these problems using some natural remedies. But, sometimes, you should visit your doctor to examine your tongue immediately.

  • The bumps caused by infections or injuries become inflamed and very large.
  • The red bumps or canker sores last for more than one week.
  • The bumps on the tongue make it difficult to eat or drink.
  • The sores on your tongue don’t heal after several days.
  • Severe allergic reactions lead to swelling of the tongue.
  • Severe pain in the back of your tongue accompanied by fever, headache, and other symptoms.
  • I have tried many home remedies, and the problems aren’t resolved.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *