Adrianne has a master's degree in cancer biology and has taught high school and college biology.
Swollen Taste Buds
Go in front of the mirror. Now open wide and say ahhhh! Do you see your little friends all over your tongue? Sure you do, because you see your taste buds. These are the papillae on the surface of your tongue that allow you to taste your favorite foods. They're a huge reason why you enjoy eating.
Well, that's the case when they're healthy. There are times when the taste buds may not be in the best condition because they are swollen or inflamed. It's to bet that you've had swollen taste buds at some point in time in your life. What you may not immediately know is what caused your taste buds to become swollen. There are many reasons why this can occur. Here are some possible causes of swollen taste buds.
Some of the most common causes of swollen taste buds are physical causes that usually aren't very serious. Drinking or eating hot foods or drinks is probably the number one cause of swollen taste buds. The heat from the hot food or drink burns and causes the taste buds to become inflamed.
Another common cause happens when people are actually trying to do something good to take care of their mouths. Brushing the tongue is a good hygiene practice, but harsh tongue brushing can cause the taste buds to become swollen. Rather than taking care of your taste buds, it ends up being more like you are roughing them up!
Other physical causes of swollen taste buds are cuts, biting the tongue, and other injuries to the tongue. It's easy to be sure that you've had that unpleasant experience of thoroughly enjoying your meal and then biting your tongue while you're chewing. It sent pain waves everywhere and your tongue was swollen afterwards.
There are also some chemical causes of swollen taste buds. Eating food that contains a chemical to which a person is allergic can cause the taste buds to become inflamed and swollen as part of the allergic reaction. This reaction can also happen due to allergens in the air making their way into the mouth.
I know another cause of swollen taste buds that you've probably experienced at some point in time. Really strong mouthwash! You know, the kind that made your eyes watery and your nose run? It also made your tongue swollen, especially if you decided to be brave and use it for a minute or more.
A diet that doesn't contain enough vitamins could cause the tongue to become swollen. This is because vitamins are important in maintaining oral health. The lack of vitamins causes oral health to deteriorate, and the tongue can become infected and inflamed.
Using certain chemicals like tobacco and alcohol can cause tongue irritation, which leads to a swollen tongue as well. This applies whether you chew, smoke, or drink the substance. Tobacco use can cause so much damage to the taste buds that they lose the ability to let you know how food and drinks taste.
Patients could sometimes end up with a swollen tongue as a result of vomiting or having acid reflux. Keep in mind that acid reflux is when stomach acid moves up the digestive tract instead of remaining in the stomach, or the lower part of the digestive tract. Vomiting brings food from the stomach back up and out through the mouth. The acid that breaks down the foods that we eat is a very strong acid that irritates the taste buds and the rest of the tongue if it makes it back into the mouth. The taste buds will often swell after being exposed to acid.
The last chemical cause of swollen taste buds that we're going to cover involves treatments that are normally given to combat cancers. Radiation and chemotherapy both use chemicals in order to treat cancer. These chemicals irritate the mouth as a whole since the chemicals affect the mucous membranes, which are the tissues that line the openings of the body and secrete mucus. This irritation in the mouth can include swelling of the taste buds.
Causes From Disease & Infection
The last group of causes for swollen taste buds are diseases and infections. Fungal, bacterial, and viral infections, like oral thrush and herpes, may cause the taste buds to become swollen. The taste buds are more likely to become swollen if the tongue itself is the part of the mouth that's infected.
The last cause of swollen taste buds that we're going to cover is cancer. Head and neck cancers can affect the inside of the mouth to include the tongue. When cancer cells are in the mouth region, they attack the taste buds on the tongue, which causes the taste buds to swell and become irritated.
All right, let's take a couple of moments to review what we've learned. We've discussed quite a bit about the taste buds, which are the papillae on the surface of your tongue that allow you to taste. Let's recap what we learned in regards to possible causes of inflamed or swollen taste buds.
The first group of causes that we covered were the physical causes, which are:
- Drinking or eating hot foods or drinks
- Brushing the tongue too hard
- Cuts, biting the tongue, and other injuries to the tongue
The second group of causes that we covered were the chemical causes, which are:
- Eating food that contains allergens
- Strong mouthwash
- Lack of vitamins in the diet
- Tobacco and alcohol
- Vomiting or acid reflux
- Radiation and chemotherapy
The last group of causes that we covered were the causes from infection and disease, which are:
- Fungal, bacterial, and viral infections
- Head and neck cancers
Medical Disclaimer: The information on this site is for your information only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice.
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