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What are Causes and Treatments of Swollen Taste Buds?

Do we feel our taste buds? There may be times our taste buds feel swollen or bumpy or ache. Taste buds are in fact the receptor cells found in the surface of upper tongue. They are located around the tiny, round bumps known as papillae on the tongue as well as on the soft palate, upper esophagus and the cheek. These receptor cells enable us to taste sweet, sour, bitter and savory flavors. But if the taste buds are swollen or infected, it can cause a considerable discomfort.

Normally, taste buds redevelop themselves after 1 to 2 weeks. Yet they can be damaged sometimes due to getting burned, become swollen etc. And when they are swollen, usually the tongue can also be swollen, and adversely affect one’s sense of taste. This is because inside the papillae are microvilli projections that are the efficient neurotransmitters of taste to the brain. Any disturbance or interference to these can damage a person’s tasting sense.

What causes damage to the taste buds? There are many settings that can aggravate the taste buds and cause swelling such as very hot or very cold drink or food, or even very spicy or sour, dry mouths, acidic medications, acid reflux disease, cuts, burns, or injuries to the mouth, exposure of radiation to the head or neck, infections like a cold, flu, bacterial or fungal diseases and bad oral hygiene. Although rare bu sometimes, it could be a sign of tongue cancer.

Our taste buds are not normally visible to us with the naked eye. Yet, one might notice the tongue appearing bright red or white, or having tiny blisters called pustules on the tongue.

The reason behind damaged or swollen taste buds establishes the right course of treatment. A specialist or ENT can examine the condition and give a proper diagnosis. Medications can be prescribed to lessen swelling of the tongue or taste bud such as antibiotics in case of infection or something to treat reflux disease.

A dentist may also help to look at the condition through an examination of one’s oral health. A dentist can treat soft tissue infection, which is similar to having gum disease. Simpler methods may include regular brushing and flossing teeth twice a day using a special mouth wash and toothpaste, especially in case of a chronic dry mouth, or rinsing mouth and throat with lukewarm salt water a few times daily. The situation may need to be addressed earliest as it can have an adverse effect on the appetite and food pleasure.

image taken from www.med-health.net

Causes for Swollen Taste Buds

The following conditions can cause taste buds to damage or swell.

  1. Spicy, sour, very hot or cold drink/food

There are acids present in spicy foods that can cause tongue swelling and irritation. Very hot drinks and foods can cause damage to the lingual papillae.

  1. Alcohol or smoking

These stimulants carry a range of chemicals that have been known to aggravate the taste buds.

  1. Vitamin deficiency

The National Institute of Health says that vitamin C and vitamin Bs are vital nutritional constituents that assist in the oral cavity. Low amount of these nutrients can cause swollen tongue and inflamed taste buds.

  1. Tongue injuries

Cuts and cracks that appear on the tongue surface actually are injuries that can cause swollen taste buds. Tongue piercings not done correctly can also lead to tongue injuries. Inflammation and bleeding are also indicators of the swelling of the taste buds.

  1. Infections

There are various infections that can cause mild or severe swelling of the taste buds. For example, according to CDC one of the main causes of tongue and mouth infections is sexually transmitted diseases. Around 20 million people are infected with STDs in the United States of America every year, and this leads to a significant increase to the number of diagnosed cases of inflamed taste buds. Lupus is also an infection that causes swelling on the tongue. Other infections such as flu, common cold and tonsillitis have also been associated with the swelling of the taste buds.

  1. Acid reflux

It is a common ailment in which the stomach regurgitates some food material back to the mouth. This food content is acidic and can overpower and damage the taste buds and the mouth lining. They typically cause swelling to the rear of the tongue, and it can also result in swellings and lesions spread all over the region.

  1. Mouthwash

These are antiseptic liquids that we use to kill germs inside the mouth. Despite their important main objective to keep the mouth clean and free of toxins, it has been linked to the swelling of the taste buds. In extreme cases, it can also kill the taste buds.

  1. Stress

Mental stress and depression can easily result in an imbalance in hormones that can further lead to a restricted immune system. This can be amplified by the lesions occurring in the mouth as well as soreness of the taste buds on the tongue.

Treatments of Swollen Taste Buds

So in case of swollen taste buds, there are some treatments and home remedies that can help in reducing the intensity of the condition.

Home remedies

1. Hold ice chips on the tongue

These are small chips of ice, and they assist in relieving swelling on the tongue. But be careful not to keep the ice in the mouth for longer period as it can cause ice burns.

2. Brush teeth twice daily

Good oral hygiene is indeed a highly effective way to prevent infections from occurring in the mouth. One can easily achieve it by brushing their teeth 2 times every day.

3. Gargle with lukewarm salt water

Salt-mixed water contains antibacterial features and gargling it helps to relieve inflammation of the taste buds. This method also helps to remove toxins, free radicals and any food substances left in the mouth after a meal.

4. Drink plenty of water

It is important to keep the body hydrated by consuming good amount of water daily. A dry mouth condition might occur, indicating burning tongue disorder that requires frequent drinking of fluids. Mayo Clinic states that proper hydration in men can be achieved with ten glasses of water, and in women it can be achieved with eight glasses of water.

5. Avoid pro-inflammatory substances

Some of the biggest culprits in this section are alcohol and tobacco. Healthline shares that excessive amount of alcohol may be one of the major causes of inflammations in the body. Reducing the intake of the pro inflammatory material is the ideal way to prevent swelling of the taste buds.

6. Get enough vitamins and nutrients

Swollen taste buds can be caused due to a deficiency of vitamins. Adjustment to the lifestyle such as high intake of fruits and veggies can effectively turn around agitation of the taste buds. Also, conditions such as scurvy should be diagnosed by a medical doctor along with prescriptions if required.

image taken from www.doctorshealthpress.com

Professional help

1. Take medications

Medications are an effective way of treating damaged or infected taste buds. Some of the medications to consider include antibiotics, H2 receptor blockers and antacids. Seeking medical advice from specialist is a good idea to evade the wrong medication or treatment.

2. Talk to a doctor

The most recommended way of treating a condition is speaking with a medical doctor so that the patient can receive personalized solution for their condition. Some causes of inflammation of the taste buds, as in STD case, need to be addressed initially before starting treatment of the swollen taste buds.

Wrap Up

A range of conditions can be responsible for the swelling of the taste buds. Some of these conditions are smoking, excessive alcohol intake, consuming spicy and acidic foods as well as hot or extremely cold foods or drinks. Luckily, as mentioned before, there are many ways one can lessen the pain and the swelling of buds on the tongue.

Tom Brendon

Tom Brendon has completed his nutrition undergrad in the UK and received his Master's degree from Canada in health education and specializes in human health and pediatrics. He began his career as a writer for Nutritionline in 2014 and Authority Health in 2016. He has considerable research experience and currently writes nutrition and health articles for general readership. He enjoys outdoor activities, snowboarding and spending quality time with family and friends.

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