Your taste buds are what let you experience the flavor of your favorite food or drink. Be it salty, sweet, sour, or bitter, these tiny organs enable you to identify the different tastes. 

The Four Types Of Lingual Papillae

The tongue contains 4 types of papillae that help you speak, taste, chew, and swallow.  

  • Filiform: This is the most common type, and it doesn’t have any taste buds. They work as grips to help cleanse the mouth, chew, and speak. 
  • Fungiform: Around 200-400 fungiform papillae reside on the tip and edges of your tongue. Each one has 3 to 5 taste buds and sensory cells that detect temperature and texture.  
  • Circumvallate: These huge papillae are present at your tongue’s base and contain thousands of taste buds. They are so large that you can easily see them with the naked eye.  
  • Foliate: These reside on the back edges of your tongue and contain several hundred taste buds. 

Under normal circumstances, you may not feel your papillae. But sometimes, they become swollen. Enlarged or inflamed taste buds can cause irritation and pain. Eating or drinking can be a difficult task when your taste buds swell up. But what causes inflamed papillae? Let’s learn the common reasons.  

What Causes Enlarged or Inflamed Taste Buds?

 Swollen taste buds can occur due to several conditions, be it allergies or a poor oral hygiene routine. Here are some possible causes of enlarged papillae. 

1. Poor oral hygiene

Ignoring oral hygiene routines that include daily brushing and flossing can allow bacteria and viruses to fester in the mouth. This can cause infections that result in inflamed taste buds.   


To prevent this from happening, dentists recommend brushing the top surface of your tongue. Whenever you brush and floss your teeth, don’t forget your tongue. This practice is essential if you’re experiencing a dry mouth or smoke. To get rid of any remaining bacteria, it’s a good idea to rinse with an antiseptic mouthwash. 

2. Dry Mouth

There are several causes of a dry mouth, including dehydration, medications, or breathing from the mouth (when having a stuffy nose). Sometimes your salivary glands produce insufficient saliva resulting in xerostomia.

For taste buds to work properly, a wet environment is very important, and a dry mouth can make them enlarged or irritated. 


The best way to combat this situation is to drink enough water or juices. If the culprit is medication or slowed down salivary glands, you can ask your doctor for alternative medicines or use artificial saliva mouth sprays. To get rid of a stuffy nose, inhale steam or use mentholated candies. 

3. Acid Reflux

Acid reflux occurs when stomach acid flows backward into the esophagus. Sometimes, the acid can reach your mouth, resulting in a burnt tongue and inflamed taste buds. 


The best strategy is to avoid spicy, citric, or fatty foods. Caffeinated drinks like tea or coffee can also cause acid reflux, so it’s better to stay away from them too. If changes to your diet aren’t very effective, take anti-reflux medications.  

4. Spicy or acidic foods

Spicy or acidic foods can worsen acid reflux and irritate the taste buds. Unfortunately, this can make them enlarged or inflamed. Avoid such foods to solve the problem. A cup of milk can help minimize tongue soreness. 

5. Extreme Temperatures

If you eat or drink something really hot or cold, you may end up damaging your taste buds. You don’t need treatment for swollen taste buds; they will heal within a few days.  


Drink plenty of water to eliminate the bacteria. It’s better to avoid mouthwashes that contain alcohol as they can aggravate the soreness and swelling. 

6. Oral Infections

 It rarely happens, but viral or bacterial infections can also cause inflammation of the taste buds. The most common cause can be scarlet fever that can occur due to strep throat. The symptoms can be a fever, swollen tonsils, and peels on the tongue. Later, the tongue turns red, and the taste buds swell. 


Viral infections like the cold and flu don’t need any medicine and get better on their own. If the condition persists for more than 10 days, visit your doctor or dentist immediately. 

7. Transient Lingual Papillitis (TLP)

TLP is a harmless condition that can cause inflamed, swollen taste buds appearing as large formations on the top of the tongue. However, don’t worry too much; TLP only lasts a few days.   

8. Oral Cancer

Oral cancer is a rare cause of enlarged papillae. This is more common in heavy drinkers and smokers. If you notice an ulcer or lump on your tongue that doesn’t get better even after 10 to 15 days, schedule an appointment with your dentist for further examination.  

9. Vitamin Deficiencies

Lack of nutrients such as iron or vitamin B can cause tongue swelling. 

10. Stress

Stress can cause several medical issues, including inflamed or enlarged papillae. 

11. Smoking

Certain chemicals in cigarettes can irritate your taste buds. Moreover, smoking can give you sluggish taste buds, reducing your sense of taste.    

12. Injuries

Cuts or mouth injuries can cause a swollen tongue. 

13. Irritation

A denture or sharp tooth rubbing against your taste buds can swell them. 

Are there any complications?

The complications depend on the cause of the enlarged taste buds. Many of the reasons behind swollen taste buds will go away on their own. While you have inflamed taste buds, you may find it difficult to eat.  


If you want to know the cause of your swollen taste buds, head over to Rodeo Dental & Orthodontics for a check-up. Your dentist will examine your tongue to diagnose the cause of your swollen taste buds. Specifically, they will look at the size, color, and texture of your tongue. Additionally, your dentist will recommend a biopsy if they suspect oral cancer. This test involves removing a small tissue from your tongue to be used as a sample sent to a lab for further examination. 

For more information, call one of our locations near you!