Tongue out

Bumps on the tongue is a common condition, but the cause isn't clear in most cases. Most of the time they don't pose a health threat, but they can cause some discomfort. Some people call them “lie bumps”—an old wives' tale says they're caused by telling falsehoods. But the official name of this condition is transient lingual papillitis.

Causes of Bumps on the Tongue

There's no single known cause for bumps on the tongue, but a couple of theories exist. A possible cause is trauma to the tongue, such as scraping or scratching it with your teeth, accidentally biting it, or drinking very hot coffee. Eating acidic foods, like tomatoes and strawberries, or eating too much granular salt or sugar could also be factors.


One popular folk remedy is saline (salt water). Stir 1/4 teaspoon of table salt in an 8-ounce glass of filtered water. The temperature of the water can be warm or cool depending on your preference. Take a mouthful of the water and swish it around your mouth, concentrating on the area where the bumps formed. Even if the bumps don't clear up faster, this solution can provide relief if you're experiencing irritation or pain from the condition.

Spray on an antiseptic numbing spray like the kind used for sore throats. This can provide temporary relief if you're feeling pain on the tongue as well.

Avoid acidic, salty, and other irritating foods while you wait for the bumps to clear up. Drink plenty of water to keep your tongue hydrated, as dry mucous membrane is more prone to infection.

Even without treatment, transient lingual papillitis rarely lasts longer than a week. If the bumps don't disappear within a reasonable time, seek medical attention. Bumps can become infected, and sometimes what you thought was a simple "lie bump" is actually a more serious condition that needs treatment.