Swollen Taste Buds: 6 Signs and Symptoms and Their Cure

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Last Updated on December 22, 2022 by Dr Gustavo Assatourians DDS

Taste buds are a set of taste sensory receptors found on the tongue; they are the main recipients of the sense of taste. Depending upon their location on the tongue, they have the ability to better detect certain types of flavors or stimuli, and also pain which might cause swollen taste buds. The stomatognathic system is made up of different organs; the first is the mouth where we can carry out functions such as mastication, breathing, the articulation of words, swallowing, and the creation of the food bolus.

They can be executed simultaneously and may change from one to the other with great precision in only a thousandth of a second. The oral mucosa is made up of hard tissues related to the maxilla, mandible, and teeth as well as the soft tissues responsible for lining the oral cavity. It is composed of epithelium and connective tissue, which in turn is classified into three types as described below:

  • Lining mucosa: covers the cheeks, soft palate, lateral portions of the tongue, and the inner part of the lips
  • Masticatory mucosa: composed of the gums and the hard palate, it receives the force of chewing. It is firmly attached to the bone and thus lacks mobility.
  • Specialized or sensitive mucosa: composed mainly of taste buds.

There are Four Types of Papillae on the Surface of the Tongue:

  • Filiform: these projections are the most common type of lingual papillae. They are small and round and do not contain taste buds.
  • Fungiform: these mushroom-shaped papillae contain taste buds and sensory cells, and are located primarily on the tip of the tongue.
  • Foliated: These leaf-shaped papillae are located on the lateral edges of the tongue and also contain taste buds.
  • Calciform or circumvallate: these larger papillae are situated in the posterior third of the tongue in a V-shape and also contain taste buds.

Taste is the primary sense of all vertebrates, reliably transmitting important chemical information from the mouth to the brain. Humans also rely on the human taste system to select delicious foods and beverages based, in part, on taste preferences for the 5 basic taste stimuli; sweet, sour, salty, bitter, and umami.

What Causes Swollen Taste Buds?

Inflammation has been shown to be a common factor in many of the conditions associated with enlarged taste buds, thereby developing taste disorders. For example, some people are born with taste disorders, but most develop them after an illness or injury.  The causes of taste problems include:swollen-taste-buds

1. Diseases

    • Infectious diseases: Viral infections of the upper respiratory tract, an infection of the oral cavity, or viral hepatitis frequently develop taste abnormalities characterized by increased levels of perception and recognition of different taste stimuli.
    • Autoimmune diseases: Various autoimmune diseases are known to affect taste function. For example, patients with Sjögren’s syndrome show decreased taste acuity. Sjögren’s syndrome is an autoimmune disorder characterized by the infiltration of immune cells into the salivary glands and various other tissues that attack the normal function of the cells. For this reason, a change in sensation reflected in the oral cavity can be seen.
    • Syndromes: some syndromes cause a case of dry mouth to develop, (burning mouth syndrome). In fact, this may be the first symptom of a systemic disease. If this continuous sensation is not adequately hydrated, it is suggested to visit the dentist to undertake specific studies.
    • Cancer: radiotherapy for the treatment of head and neck cancers can alter the normal cycle of cells in the oral cavity, especially the taste buds, which makes it important to be wary of oral cancer

2. External Injuries

Within the causes associated with injuries or injuries caused by external causes, we find from the simplest to the most complex:

    • Itch: An itchy tongue is a more common symptom in people who smoke and suffer from a syndrome known as “burning mouth syndrome.” You may suffer from the syndrome with another probable cause.
    • Biting: a common behavior that can sometimes happen when people chew food, talk, or get tongue-tied.
    • Burns: Some foods due to their acidic pH can become erosive to the taste buds. Avoid consuming acidic and spicy foods that can trigger burning and inflammation in your taste buds. Vitamin deficiency can also develop a change in the size and texture of the taste buds. Keep in mind that exposure to substances such as alcohol can dehydrate the oral mucosa and make it weaker. In fact, s is one of the main causes of oral cancer.

The Most Complex:

  • Head injury
  • Poor oral hygiene and dental problems.
  • Exposure to harmful chemical substances such as tobacco and alcohol,  insecticides, and some medications, including common antibiotics and antihistamines.
  • Medication use: be aware that some medications will alter the normal functioning of saliva and therefore your taste buds like those that control gastric reflux.
  • Some ear, nose, and throat surgeries (such as middle ear surgery) or third molar (wisdom tooth) removal

Causes and Treatments of Swollen Taste Buds

To determine what actions to take and what treatments the patient can handle at home, all signs and symptoms must be taken into account. Below you will find some causes of swollen taste buds that can develop inflammation of the taste buds, but remember to always be guided by your trusted dentist.

Signs and symptoms Treatment
Cuts It can be treated with a homemade calendula mouthwash of 10 drops in half a cup of water.
Bites To clean a tongue wound, rinse your mouth with a solution of one part water and one part hydrogen peroxide.
Dry mouth Use salivary flow stimulants such as acidic foods and chewing gum to avoid dehydrating taste buds
Burning

and Burns

It is okay to rinse your mouth with cold water or milk, as they create a protective coating on the affected tissue.
Burns Avoid eating foods that are at extreme temperatures; always try to eat them at room temperature.
Itching If you smoke and have constant itching on your tongue, it is advisable to visit the dentist for a diagnosis to find out if you have the syndrome or if it is associated with another probable cause.

Prevention of Swollen Taste Buds, When to go to the Dentist? 

Taste bud homeostasis is maintained by balanced cell turnover and differentiation. Tongue abnormalities may provide a diagnostic and therapeutic clue for dentists. Recognition and diagnosis require a complete history, including onset and duration, antecedent symptoms, and tobacco and alcohol use. A careful examination of the morphology of the tongue  is recommended  when symptoms in the tongue manifest, such as:

  • Color change
  • Lesions such as ulcers that do not heal after 15 days
  • Localized or multiple tongue growths
  • Changes in the taste of food
  • Large lesions that do not hurt

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The faster you visit your dentist and tests are carried out to complement your medical history, the more accessible the treatment and monitoring of your symptoms will be. Remember to visit your dentist every 6 months since prevention will always be the best option.

Contact us

If you have any questions about swollen taste buds or other topics, you can contact us at Channel Islands Family Dental as well as our page on Facebook. We look forward to your visit and we will make a timely diagnosis. Our dentists in  Oxnard, Santa Paula, Ventura, Newbury Park, and  Port Hueneme will be able to guide you toward the best treatment to take care of your health and give you back your best smile.

Bibliography

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  2. Berner, J.E., Will, P., Loubies, R., & Vidal, P. (2017). Physical examination of the oral cavity. Ibero-Latin-American Cutaneous Medicine, 44(3), 167-170. Available online at the following link https://www.medigraphic.com/pdfs/cutanea/mc-2016/mc163c.pdf 
  3. Aburto, MIC, & Navarro, JBR 25. Dentistry in Space. Space Medicine, 325. Available online at the following link  https://www.academia.edu/download/62541052/Momentos_estelares_de_la_medicina_espacial20200329-85858-1l4u73l.pdf#page=354
  4. Tortolero, MB (2012). General aspects of taste perception in humans. Electronic magazine portalesmédicos. com, 7(8), 378. Available at the following consultation link: https://www.portalesmedicos.com/publicaciones/articles/4349/3/aspectos-generales-de-la-perc.
  5. Wang, H., Zhou, M., Brand, J., & Huang, L. (2009). Inflammation and Taste Disorders. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 1170(1), 596–603. doi:10.1111/j.1749-6632.2009.04480.x  
  6. Kapsimali, M., & Barlow, LA (2013). Developing a sense of taste. Seminars in Cell & Developmental Biology, 24(3), 200–209.doi:10.1016/j.semcdb.2012.11.0
  7. Taste disorders, available online at the following link https://www.nidcd.nih.gov/health/taste-disorders
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