Your taste buds allow you to recognize various tastes, from sweet to sour. Every person has roughly 10,000 taste buds that line the tongue, and each taste bud has between 10-50 sensory cells connected to your body’s nerve fibers.
Taste buds are microscopic, which means you should not feel them, but sometimes your taste buds can swell, enlarge, and become inflamed. Inflamed taste buds can become irritated and painful, causing extreme discomfort while eating or drinking.
Read on to learn what your taste buds are trying to tell you.
Are Swollen Taste Buds Harmful?
Enlarged taste buds can be pretty uncomfortable. Typically, they are not symbolic of a more severe condition, and the swelling will go away on their own with time. However, some issues can lead to frequent swelling or tongue pain, which should be diagnosed and treated.
Potential Causes of Swollen Taste Buds
There are a few potential causes that can cause damage to your taste buds. While taste buds typically regenerate approximately every 1-2 weeks, there are times when they can become damaged, burned, or inflamed for different reasons, including the following:
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 another injury to the mouth can result in inflammation or swelling.
Diet. Eating extremely spicy or very sour foods.
Medication. Taking certain medications that are very acidic on the tongue can result in swelling.
How to Treat Swollen Taste Buds
If a specific condition is causing your taste bud issue, 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.
If swollen taste buds are a frequent occurrence, speak with your doctor about a treatment plan to determine the cause.
When Inflamed Taste Buds Are a Warning Sign
If you’re experiencing inflamed taste buds and the discomfort is not going away, it’s always recommended to consult with a healthcare professional. 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, we recommend checking for other potential signs of oral cancer, including:
Sore (s) in your mouth that are either painful or not.
Frequent pain in the mouth.
A white or red patch on your tongue, gums, or anywhere on the inside of the mouth.
Numbness of the tongue.
A lump on the inner cheek.
Difficulty chewing, swallowing or moving your jaw.
A lump on your neck.
A lingering cough.
Your doctor or dentist will be able to help diagnose the cause of swollen taste buds by examining your tongue and noting the color, texture, and size. If you have any concerns over taste bud discomfort, discuss a treatment plan with Hinsdale Dentistry at your next exam.