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Swollen Taste Buds: Causes, Appearance, Treatment

About Swollen Taste Buds

Taste Buds are small sensory organs which as the name suggests allow a person to feel the taste of various flavors. It is because of the taste buds that people can differentiate between sweet and spicy. It is because of these organs that people are able to relish different delicacies. The taste buds are located at the back of the tongue. Normally, the taste buds regenerate themselves after every couple of weeks. However, sometimes these taste buds get burned, damaged, or even swollen.[1,2,3]

A person with swollen taste buds may also have swollen tongue which is normally a cause of irritated taste buds. Swollen Taste Buds are usually not a cause of worry and resolve by themselves but if the swelling persists then the ability to taste flavors can get affected.[1,2,3]

Swollen Taste Buds: Causes, Appearance, Treatment

What Causes Swollen Taste Buds?

As stated, the taste buds are located on the back of the tongue on round bumps that are called papillae. Within these papillae there are small hair like projections that have the sensory cells the function of which is to transmit messages to the brain. It is these sensory cells that are responsible for a person feeling taste of substances. Any interference in the functioning of these sensory cells results in disruption in the taste of a person.[3]

There are several conditions that may cause irritation to these sensory cells and include.[3]

Acid Reflux: This is a condition in which the acid present in the stomach rises up through the esophagus and into the throat and mouth. This can cause burning of the taste buds and affect the ability of a person to taste foods.[3]

Injury: Any form of burn, cut, or any other injury to the mouth or tongue can cause inflammation and swelling of the taste buds.[3]

Other Causes: Some of the other causes for Swollen Taste Buds include excessive dry mouth, eating something very spicy or hot, eating foods that are either too hot or too cold. Additionally, any history of radiation to the head or neck areas for treatment of some form of cancer can also cause Swollen Taste Buds.[3]

At times, bacterial, viral and fungal infections are also the reason behind Swollen Taste Buds. People who have poor dental hygiene can also end up with Swollen Taste Buds. People with an active history of smoking can also at times have Swollen Taste Buds.[3]

Rarely, Swollen Taste Buds can indicate something more serious going on like a tongue cancer. This is a condition which can cause inflammation resulting in Swollen Taste Buds.[3]

How Do Swollen Taste Buds Appear?

In people who have Swollen Taste Buds, the taste buds will appear as white or bright red. Some people may also have fluid filled blisters on the tongue. A person cannot visualize taste buds with the naked eye. So, a close inspection by a physician is the only way to identify Swollen Taste Buds. The main reason Swollen Taste Buds resolve very quickly is the fact that new taste buds are growing all the time.[3]

However, the National Institutes of Health states that there are nearly 200,000 people in the United States that visit a physician every year due to problems with their taste buds including Swollen Taste Buds. It is important for a person to visit an ENT physician if in addition to the lack of taste the person also notices an altered ability to smell.[3]

How Are Swollen Taste Buds Treated?

The cause of the Swollen Taste Buds determines the treatment for it. In majority of the cases, Swollen Taste Buds heals with time due to them regenerating every couple of weeks. In cases where infection is believed to be the cause of it then the person will be given a course of antibiotics to treat the infection which will invariably treat Swollen Taste Buds.[3]

Additionally, people who smoke should try and quit to prevent any chances of getting Swollen Taste Buds. Some of the other steps that can be taken to prevent Swollen Taste Buds include brushing the teeth at least twice daily. Using dry mouth rinse for people with dry mouth is also quite effective in not only treating but also preventing Swollen Taste Buds.[3]

People with Swollen Taste Buds can also be effectively treated by gargling with warm water several times a day till the taste comes back to normal. Sucking ice chips is also a good way of reducing swelling and inflammation. For people with acid reflux, use of PPIs H2 receptor antibodies along with antacids is effective in treatment of Swollen Taste Buds.[3]

In conclusion, Swollen Taste Buds is a benign condition which has a variety of causes that range from acid reflux to rarely tongue cancer. People who have radiation treatment to the neck can also at times end up with Swollen Taste Buds. The taste buds regenerate every couple of weeks so the condition heals up quite quickly with time.[1,2,3]

However, if any underlying medical condition like acid reflux or infection is causing Swollen Taste Buds then treatments can be administered to treat the condition. There are also certain steps that can be taken to prevent Swollen Taste Buds.[1,2,3]

These steps include brushing the teeth at least twice daily, maintaining good oral hygiene, and rinsing the mouth at least once a week. People who are active smokers should try and quit if they start having problems with their ability to taste and relish food as a result of Swollen Taste Buds.[1,2,3]


Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:April 11, 2022

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