Swollen Taste Bud

A swollen taste bud can result from burning your tongue, eating spicy foods or having conditions like allergies or dry mouth. Even stress can cause it. Swollen taste buds aren’t serious and usually heal on their own in just a few days. Saltwater rinses and antiseptic mouthwashes can help ease your symptoms.


Swollen taste bud risk factors, including poor oral hygiene, smoking and dry mouth.
You can get swollen taste buds for many different reasons. Common risk factors include smoking, dry mouth and poor oral hygiene.

What is a swollen taste bud?

A swollen taste bud is a taste bud that’s inflamed or irritated for some reason. Thousands of taste buds cover your tongue. These tiny sensory organs help you tell the difference between sweet, salty, sour and bitter flavors. But like other places on your body, your taste buds can become inflamed. Swollen taste buds can result in pain and sensitivity, particularly when eating or drinking.

People may have several swollen taste buds or just one. They’re generally harmless and tend to go away on their own in just a few days. Less commonly, swollen taste buds may indicate another underlying condition, such as acid reflux, dry mouth or allergies.

How common are swollen taste buds?

Swollen taste buds are common. Experts estimate that over 50% of people in the U.S. develop them at one time or another.


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Symptoms and Causes

What are the symptoms of a swollen taste bud?

Swollen taste bud symptoms may include spots on your tongue that are:

  • Bright red.
  • White.
  • Fluid-filled.

What causes swollen taste buds?

There are several factors that can result in swollen taste buds, including:

  • Poor oral hygiene. If you don’t brush and floss regularly, the plaque and bacteria on your teeth can cause inflammation in your mouth, including swollen taste buds.
  • Irritation from dental appliances. Braces, dentures and other dental appliances can rub against your tongue, causing inflammation and swollen taste buds.
  • Smoking. Tobacco products contain chemicals that can irritate the tissues inside your mouth, including your taste buds.
  • Dry mouth (xerostomia). If you don’t produce enough saliva, it can cause a number of oral health issues, including cavities, gum disease and inflammation in your mouth.
  • Burning your mouth. If you burn your tongue on something, like extremely hot food, it could result in swollen taste buds on your tongue.
  • Eating certain foods. Foods that are especially sour or spicy can cause sore and inflamed tissues inside your mouth.
  • GERD (chronic acid reflux). Acid reflux causes acid to back up from your stomach and enter your esophagus. Sometimes, the acid can make it all the way to your mouth. If this occurs frequently, it can result in swollen taste buds.
  • Allergies. Some foods, medications and other chemicals can cause a reaction when they touch your tongue.

Diagnosis and Tests

How are swollen taste buds diagnosed?

A healthcare provider can diagnose swollen taste buds with a visual oral examination. But you probably don’t need to see your provider unless the spots on your tongue last longer than two weeks or you have pain that interferes with your quality of life.

Management and Treatment

How can I get rid of swollen taste buds?

When swollen taste buds aren’t linked to another underlying condition, your symptoms should go away on their own in a few days. But if another health condition causes swollen taste buds, you can get rid of them by treating the underlying issue.

For example, if allergies cause swollen taste buds, avoid the food or medication that triggered your symptoms. If your taste buds tend to swell when you have acid reflux, take antacids, proton-pump inhibitors or H2-receptor blockers to ease discomfort.

If swollen taste buds last longer than two weeks and you’re not sure what caused the inflammation, talk to a healthcare provider. You might need treatment.


How can I ease my symptoms?

While you wait for the inflammation to go down, there are things you can do to soothe your swollen taste buds:

  • Rinse your mouth with warm saltwater twice a day.
  • Pop an ice cube in your mouth and press it against your tongue until it melts.
  • Eat soft, cool, bland foods.


How can I reduce my risk for swollen taste buds?

Though you can’t always prevent swollen taste buds, there are things you can do to reduce your risk:

  • Practice good oral hygiene. Brush twice a day, floss once a day and visit your dentist regularly.
  • If you smoke, consider quitting.
  • Avoid acidic and spicy foods.

Outlook / Prognosis

Will my swollen taste bud go away?

Yes, your swollen taste bud should go away in a few days. Some people may even have inflammation for a week or more. But if you notice lingering symptoms, it could indicate another underlying condition. In these cases, you should see a healthcare provider.

Living With

When should I see my healthcare provider?

If you still have swollen taste buds after two weeks, schedule an appointment with your healthcare provider. They can help determine whether an underlying condition caused the inflammation.

You should also call your provider if you have pain or discomfort that keeps you from your normal routines.

What questions should I ask my doctor?

If you have one or more swollen taste buds, here are some questions you might want to ask your healthcare provider:

  • What caused the inflammation?
  • Do I have an underlying condition that requires treatment?
  • Are there changes I can make to reduce my risk for swollen taste buds in the future?

Additional Common Questions

Why is just one taste bud swollen?

It’s common to have a single swollen taste bud. It could be the result of biting your tongue or even just the natural exfoliation of cells on your tongue.

Why do taste buds turn white and hurt?

A whitish appearance can indicate a swollen taste bud. Many factors can cause this, including stress, vitamin deficiencies or certain foods.

A note from Cleveland Clinic

Swollen taste buds are inconvenient at best. They’re not dangerous, but they can lead to pain and irritation. Home remedies, like sucking on ice or rinsing with warm saltwater, can ease your symptoms most of the time. But if you have swollen taste buds that last for two weeks or more, talk to your healthcare provider.

Medically Reviewed

Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 12/19/2022.

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