Your taste buds enable you to identify all the different tastes from sweet to sour. In total, you have roughly 10,000 taste buds that line your tongue, and each taste bud has between 10-50 sensory cells that are connected to your body’s nerve fibers.

Typically, you should not be able to feel your taste buds because of their microscopic size, but sometimes your taste buds have a tendency to swell or enlarge. Inflamed taste buds can become irritated and painful causing you discomfort. What are your taste buds telling you?

What are your taste buds telling you?

Why Do I Have So Many Painful Taste Buds?

There are a few potential causes of the damage to your taste buds. While taste buds typically regenerate themselves about every 1-2 weeks, there are times when they can become damaged, burned, or inflamed for different reasons including:

Acid Reflux. When harmful stomach acid rides up into the throat and mouth, it can burn the taste buds in the back of your throat or on other areas of your tongue.

Dry Mouth. If you’re experiencing a lack of natural saliva in your mouth, dry mouth may be the culprit and can also cause taste buds to become inflamed or over sensitive.

Radiation. A history of or exposure to radiation of the head and neck.

Sickness. Infections, such as a cold, flu, fungal or bacterial illness.

Poor Oral Hygiene. Not properly brushing and rinsing your mouth and teeth

Tobacco. Smoking or chewing tobacco products, or other products that contain nicotine.

Burns. Exposure to extremely hot or cold foods that caused a burn, cut or other injury to the mouth that resulted in inflammation or swelling.

Diet. Eating extremely spicy or very sour foods.

Medication. Taking a medication that is very acidic on the tongue.

How To Treat Swollen Taste Buds

If your taste bud issue is being caused by a specific condition, here are a few things you can do to prevent your swollen taste buds from returning:

  • If acid reflux is causing you painful taste buds, take antacids, H2-receptor blockers, or proton pump inhibitors to reduce or block stomach acid from reaching the mouth

  • If food allergies are the culprit, avoid foods that trigger your symptoms

  • Any infections caused by bacteria should be treated with antibiotics

  • Taking a vitamin supplement to correct a vitamin deficiency can bring your body levels back up to normal.

  • Gargle with a mixture of warm water and salt three times a day to help your mouth heal and stay clean.

Talk to your doctor and come up with a treatment plan together if you are experiencing any recurring symptoms.

Are Swollen Taste Buds Harmful To Health?

More than anything else, painful taste buds are uncomfortable. They typically are not emblematic of a more serious condition, and will go away on their own with a little time. But there are also issues that might be leading to frequent swelling or tongue pain, and that should be diagnosed and treated.

When To Be Concerned Over Inflamed Taste Buds

If you’re noticing that your tongue pain is not going away, you should absolutely see a healthcare professional. Sometimes inflamed taste buds can be a sign of a more severe problem, such as tongue cancer. If you’re unsure of the cause, or if the swelling is not going away on its own, other signs of oral cancer include:

  • Sore (s) in your mouth that are either painful, or not painful
  • Mouth pain
  • A white or red patch on your tongue, gums, or anywhere in the inside of your mouth
  • Numbness of the tongue
  • A lump on your inner chek
  • Difficulty chewing, swallowing or moving your jaw
  • A lump on your neck
  • Loose teeth
  • High fever
  • A lingering cough

Your doctor or dentist will be able to diagnose the cause of swollen taste buds just by examining your tongue and noting the color, texture and size of your tongue. If you have any concerns over taste bud discomfort, discuss a treatment plan with us at your next office visit.

Dr. Kim Dr. Kim

Dr. Kim Okamura

I'm Dr. Kim Okamura and this blog is a product of my love of dentistry. I dedicate it to all the patients I have served so that they may better understand my craft. The information here will give you and others the power to maintain and protect one of your most priceless gifts ... your SMILE.