Health

Why do I get a little bump on the tip of my tongue when I eat a lot of sugar?

- Asks Stephanie from Claremont, CA

February 18, 2008
The result of having a bit too much sugar? [Credit: Robert Brannon]
The result of having a bit too much sugar? [Credit: Robert Brannon]

You’re at the movies, and the lure of a box of candy is too much for you to resist. You are so caught up in the action that before you know it, the box is gone. Soon, you start feeling a little sick, hyped up on all that sugar, and to top it all off there are a few small, yet slightly painful bumps on the tip of your tongue.

What exactly are those things?

Discounting the old wives’ tale that blamed the bumps on telling lies (thus the name “lie bumps”), the real answer is likely transient lingual papillitis (TLP). TLP is an inflammation of the round, mushroom-shaped structures that house taste buds called fungiform papillae. There is no single cause of TLP, and many factors have been implicated, including certain foods, stress and gastrointestinal disorders.

Although some people report having the bumps after eating raw vegetables, acidic and sugary foods tend to be the main causes of TLP. TLP varies from person to person, which is why it is believed that many factors can bring about its onset. While you may get the annoying bumps with every sugary indulgence, your best friend may satisfy his or her sweet tooth while being unable to eat a lime. The good news is that TLP is not dangerous and typically clears up on its own in a few days. Rinsing with salt water or mouthwash is sometimes helpful, and good oral hygiene is never a bad thing.

TLP was first diagnosed as such in 1996 in the journal Oral Surgery, Oral Medicine, Oral Pathology, Oral Radiology, and Endodontology. Prior to 1996, there is little documentation of the condition, and there is still not much known about it except that while it may be a nuisance, it is not dangerous.

A related condition to TLP is ELP, eruptive lingual papillitis. This condition is almost identical except that it typically starts in children 5 years of age or younger, and unlike TLP, it has been found to spread to the child’s family members. A 2004 study in the British Journal of Dermatology found that affected children experienced not only the typical bumps, but also difficulty in feeding, excessive salivation and in some cases fever and swollen lymph nodes. Like TLP, little is known about the cause of this condition, but since it was found to spread to family members, many doctors think it is an infection.

As a note of caution, not all tongue bumps are simple taste bud inflammation. If the bumps persist for more than a few days they could be an indication of something more serious, like the herpes simplex virus-1. The herpes virus is known to cause sores on the lips and tongue. These sores will differ from simple taste bud inflammation in that they will last longer and often ooze a yellowy liquid after a few days. The sores also often follow a fever or cold like symptoms. If you think you might have herpes, you should consult your doctor immediately.

To sum up, the bumps on your tongue are likely nothing more than simple inflammation. While there is no single cause, if you think the bumps might be due to excessive sugar intake, they probably are. So go ahead and splurge on those Sour Patch Kids! Your tongue is in no danger, even if your teeth might be.

Subscribe

The Scienceline Newsletter

Sign up for regular updates

About the Author

Discussion

53 Comments

stephanie chapa says:

omg, i have these exact bumps on my tongue and they are SO annoying. i have a bad habit of biting them off and making myself bleed; is this a problem?

Leah says:

Thanks for this artice! I am in school and my friend is suffering from an inflamed taste bud right now- those suckers hurt! Now we understand what they are caused by.

Holly says:

Thaaaaaank you for posting this! I have been looking for an answer to what these bumps are for the longest time. None of my friends seem to get them and even some of my doctors didn’t know.

aniy says:

I have been researching this and there is not a lot of information on it. I really didn’t even know they were called lie bumps. They are really annoying but not contagious. I have read a lot that it has to do with certain foods or biting your tongue. I have not found anything stating that it might have something to do with exposure to extreme heat, which is something that I have heard since I was small. I think it does have to do with heat exposure because I spent a few hours out in 105f weather and got a few after several hours.

savannah says:

how do you get rid of IT!?!?!?!?!??!?!?!?!

Scott says:

I have had these all my life and they can be so painful, especially if you bite them. I have found a direct relationship to when I have too much sugar. Anyway, as painful as this sounds, I brush my tongue (bumpy area) with toothpaste and it seems to make it go away very quickly.

karla says:

Thanks for posting this i thought i had a very serious problem but what you have explain is what I been going through time after time it comes then goes and it is so painful when you try to do anything to it and plus I been told that they are called lieing bumps also which I thought was ridiclous so I been searching and searching and now I finally found the solution.

Diane Brookes says:

It’s called lingual papilitis..cause not know, not harmful but more annoying!! However, it could be herpes simplex. Hope this helps :-)

Kathy Mulholland-Isabell says:

I get a bumpy, painful inflammation of the tongue when I smoke too much. I normally don’t smoke except when I drink alcohol, and maybe there is a relationship there. All the same I find relief with abstaining from both and the passage of time, also avoiding acidic foods and beverages for a couple of days.

Erin says:

I would try to find what makes it inflamed and not do that thing of a week or so and if it helps :)

Charlotte-Elizabeth Rae says:

I usually only get one of these white bumps, (on the very tip of my tongue). They usually only last a day or two. However, on this occasion I have a small cluster of five or so (all localised in the same area on the tip of my tongue). They really smart when your teeth brush past them or whilst eating. I have been doing some of my own research on transient lingual papillitis & i believe i have a papalokkeratotis variant from comparing photos online. The only Virus I am aware of that I am continually plagued with flare ups/outbreaks is Herpes Simplex Type 2. I believe there must be a link somehow as I don’t suffer from gastrointestinal issues nor do I suffer from any current or previous skin condition therefore there must be some type of relation between the HPV & the transient lingual papillitis? Hmm…

David says:

“Prior to 1996, there is little documentation of the condition.” Really?? Maybe not in scientific journals but I’ve had problems when eating sweets or some acidic foods since I was a kid in the 60’s. I asked my Dad and he knew exactly what I was talking about and had the same problem. I do appreciate the medical explanation found here.

Tejus says:

@Charlotte-Elizabeth Rae.. thanks for ur post. i’ve had one bump daybefore and if irritates like hell. don’t wanna get more nof these and wanna make this one dissappear.. also thanks to ppl for posting soln to the prob..

Alyssa says:

I had a wisdom tooth removed and I haven’t been able to open my mouth much the past 4 days. The nerve in the tip of my tongue isn’t working right at the moment as my doc says and it’s numb so I find myself biting at it for the feeling to come back. I have about 4 lie bumps on my tongue and they are hurting VERY VERY bad!! Could someone tell me how to get rid of them!? It’s pretty bad! THANKS!

iAnnie says:

i get them too except their on the side of my tongue. for me, drinking water makes them better. eating raw veggies makes it worse. sometimes they happen because i’m hot and dehydrated, so it occurs in the summer

mary says:

I hate getting these things! It takes all the fun out of eating candy :(

carie says:

I get these a lot and they’re very annoying. I find that if I use a Listerine strip shortly after having sugar, I don’t get the bumps, and if I get the bump but use a listerine strip, it goes away pretty quickly. Hope that helps others, too!

remmy marquez says:

it’s an allergy to pesticides n other fertilizers, which are used to grow sugar crops and other fruits. I too have experienced these same symptoms for over 3 decades. I am free of the allergic reaction eating organic produce and organic brown cane sugar. the downside is, they’re expensive. but, in the long run, better for us.

Aziyah says:

It sounds just like the bumps I have but what are the one on the side of ur toungh?

Heather says:

Hah! I knew it had to be something with sugar! The exact words I typed into Bing was, “What are those bumps you get on your tongue after eating sugary things?”

I never get them, and when I do, I only get like one or two, nothing like the display picture (that would SUCK!) I only get them when I eat a lot of Lifesavers Wint-O-Green mints. Heh. Guilty pleasure.

Dave says:

I have been getting one on the tip of my tongue, I eliminated smoking first and then other foods after and I still got one, I was drinking a Monster beverage almost everyday so I tried stopping that and have never gotten one again. everyone different I guess. This sure seemed like the cause to me because I drank a couple months later and I felt it getting sore the next day.

Elizabeth says:

I have had these painfully irritating white bumps on the end of my tongue for the past few days… and from the above reading, my suspicions appear correct… the acidity of JD & cola and all the chocolate eggs over Easter has caused them! Time to go back to my usual no chocolate diet and no cola diet.

Walter says:

I have had these before too, The FIRST time I experienced this was in 2007 and a few times in 2008, The last time I had them were in 2008 & now I have gotten them back in 2013.

They’re very annoying often forming on the tip of my tongue & usually start out as just 1 and turn into a cluster of them. Only once did I have 1 that did not turn into a cluster & that time it went away fast.

However, Every-time I got these and it formed a cluster of them it would last several days to a week, One time lasted nearly 2 weeks!

MY CAUSE: Every time I have ever gotten them, From the time I first got them and all the times in between up until now, I could not link it to one specific thing. TWO MAIN THINGS.. MINT (From mint candies & Mint mouthwash) + Typically a very hot body temperature/dry mouth which likely was dehydrated.

Both always occurred before I would get these. Once I took the time to try and recount things that may have caused this I figured these were the most likely and around 2008 when I had a real bad case that caused me such severe pain and wanting an answer I went to the doctor and they even mentioned possibly from dehydration/Mint.. Though he did not give an answer to why he suspected mint it had matched what i had come to the conclusion of, So, That’s what causes these for me!

They can be annoying all the way to very painful. Applying Salt over the top of them seemed to help get rid of them for me. I left the salt on my tongue for minutes (and yes it caused them to hurt more) but would usually seem to like pop them almost or something after doing that a few times. Also drinking acidic drinks and leaving the drink in your mouth on top of where your sores are seemed to help me get rid of them.

Vlad says:

Narrowed my trigger recently. I only get them after eating a generous amount of potato chips. I don’t eat many other salty foods, so I think the K+Na combination is what’s causing the irritation.

chad says:

Good to know what they are and how you
get them how to get rid of them?

tyler says:

Ive had th since i was a child, i have one now, even though it stings when you do this , applying salt directly on it seems to give me releif of the pain and tenderness

Aaron says:

I have tried to read all of the posts here to see if anyone has had these bumps from nuts. This is my trigger. Since a young boy, anytime I eat pecans or almonds, I get ONE and only ONE bump at the tip of my tongue. It is very annoying and painful. But its good to know that this is nothing major.

linda s says:

Just slightly bit my tongue last night. Told myself great, now I’m going to get one of those annoying little white bumps . When I got up this morning, there it was. Took me a long time but that’s the only time I ever get one. And it will last 2 to 3 days. Just would like to know what stops the pain?

Andrews says:

I am suffering from lie bump on my tongue

Autumn says:

Thank you. I have one and I didn’t know what it was.

tabitha says:

So glad I come across this. My son has been fighting what looks exactly like this just as bad for almost 2 months now. No one can tell us what it is. It hurts him bad. I can tell ( he can’t talk) he’s also immune suppresed which may be why it’s lasting so long.

Kesha says:

Omg.. I have this same thing right now but i love them. I love to pick them until it bleeds that my guilty pleasure. Yea I knoe its painful but its fun picking them.

Charity says:

I get these after eating sugar. I call them sugar bumps. I saw at walmart they sell a product that is supposed to help with the pain of them. I am going to buy some today.

Ayana Payne says:

I have had this ever since 2008,I am going to take it off even if it bleeds.

des says:

i have been getting these my entire life, and it seems everything i eat causes them not just sugar! Was beginning to think i was just allergic to all foods

Jeanne says:

the white stuff in your rounded can also cause by not sleeping enough and drinking a lot of water can help the irritation a little but by putting ice on the places where it hurts also helps it too. also by eating Vitiam C daily (the pill ones, or the orange flavored chewable ones from Costco ) also helps it a bit

donakally says:

Bumps are a natural thing which can be seen near about on the every persons tongue. Bumps can cure easily and naturally. For this purpose you have to do some thing which are told in this article. It is very informative and interesting article.

Kim Hashim says:

I have had these all my life. I have a mouthful right now. They hurt like the devil. As a little kid my Daddy told me they were lie bumps! Stop telling lies. So funny. I don’t agree with the sugar assumption. It’s the acid in the sour patch kids and most other candy culprits. I get them most often from highly acidic fruits, pineapple, strawberries, oranges and any foods with tomato. Pizza and spaghetti. It’s so annoying and I bite them and rub them on my teeth trying to bite them off. Salt water gargling seems to help the most.

Rob Garrett says:

great info & comments. last weekend at a sports bar had part of very salty sandwich,( sent it back), were over-salted french fries toward botttom of plate. Previous & after had several larger sugared cola drinks, cappocino or richly creamed coffee daily, lots of almonds, also stressed, high BP,taking amlopodine, different breath smell for several days (little like fish oil capsule). I also had skipped several days vitamin c supplement and taken several doses aspirin. Around Monday after weekend, started to feel little bump. Grew little more noticeable. By Thursday shrinking size. Came to conclusion whatever triggered it (1 or any combination of previous,) excessive salt previous Saturday was the biggest culprit. Going to try varied oral hygiene approaches. Thanks, Rob

Nancy says:

I have had these for a long time, years. I think I may have actually gotten them from my father when I was a child and from what I have read they are contagious for sure in children. My dentist says its bc of biting my tongue at night which I now have a mouth guard that cost 356$ it does stop me from biting at night. However I will get the sores whenever I lose sleep or am under too much stress. It’s gross but I would be so annoyed by them once I read a blog and a man said he would cut them of w nail clippers. So I tried it. I sanitize large toenail clippers in listerine after washing them in soap and hot water… I’m sure alcohol would do. Then I get a mirror and light and cut them off after which I wash the clippers again and do several listerine gargle/rinses. It cauterizes them, stops bleeding and speeds healing time. Also sleeping helps a lot. This method is gross and bloody but saves me so much pain and crazy making

Teri Pope says:

I use needle nosed tweezers to pinch these off, or go to a drugstore and get a bottle of Glyoxide, it is a gel and it helps when there are more than one…my dentist recommended it years ago!

Lawrence O'Neill says:

Many years ago I linked the little bump on my tongue to food colouring such as E129. Boiled sweets are full of colour additives and in my case it is the colouring rather than the sugar that is the problem. I once had a really nasty reaction to the red colouring on sushi. I suggest trying to avoid foods with colouring added.

Su says:

I have the same problem and have found brushing my teeth after eating, rinse mouth with salt water and use Pepto-Bismol alone or mix 50/50 with liquid Benadryl (really works)coat the inside of the mouth, helps calm the stinging, helps heal a lot quicker. Also using any canker aid or tooth numbing liquid will help when they start to feel like little electrical shocks and it is to painful to speak.

char says:

No one seems to associate these bumps with an excess of acid in the mouth from sugary candies flavored with citric acid (check the ingredients in your sweets–anything tart usually has citric acid as a chief ingredient) or from chewable vitamin C supplements. I occassionally get these inflamations of the tastebuds after I’ve eatten sour/tart candies such as Skittles or Life Savors. Try rinsing with baking soda.

Lailah says:

Ahhhh!! I finally found the answers I’ve been searching for about these bumps for years! Thank you for this! I haven’t really noticed what triggers them, they just come out of nowhere.. But I always have the urge to bite at them until they are very sore and painful. I know it’s not good to do so but it gives me a sense of comfort at the moment but I deal with the pain the next day :/ I found that the fastest way to get rid of them is by doing salt + warm water gargles and also using Listerine.

A'kiya says:

I’m 15 and I have been getting these for years. They recently came back and when one left several more will pop up at the same time. Sometimes to made it hard for me to eat anything or even swallow water. SO I started taking tweezers and pulling them off.

Nora Zeller says:

I have had a lie bump dozens of times. I only ever get one but it sure does hurt. I woke up with one this morning and have a feeling my trigger is sugar. 99% of the time i abstain but yesterday i ate way too much peanut butter fudge. Going to go dump some salt on it now and sees how that works.

Lacey says:

I have suffered with these since a teen.
As an adult, I’m always googling what the cause/cure is but to no avail…
I started making a list of foods I ate 24-12 hours before they first appear. I figured it’s acidic/ vinegary foods. Vinegar seems to be my trigger.
I also have tightly packed teeth, so I often get food trapped between the
And if I don’t have access to floss or a toothpick, I try get the trapped substance out with my tongue. I think the rubbing of my tongue on my teeth also causes these bumps…

Mickie says:

I’m glad I’m not the only one who seems to get them from vinegar. It might also be due to pesticides, I heard here. But I get a very bumpy tongue with a “healthy” diet…

Tori says:

omg i literally thought i had herpes. this helped so much.

Leave a Reply

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