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White Spots or Bumps On The Tongue: Is It Serious?

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You might notice white spots or bumps on the tongue after experiencing discomfort or when checking inside your mouth after brushing your teeth. Most of these spots or patches go away by themselves, but it is worth visiting a dentist to have them checked out if they linger. Oral thrush, canker sores and leukoplakia are the most common causes of white spots on the tongue. Here are a few conditions that can cause white spots or bumps on your tongue, and when it is time to see your dentist.

Oral Thrush

Oral thrush, an overgrowth of a naturally occurring fungus , often appears when the immune system is depressed, Babies, denture- wearers, patients with cancer, HIV and other immune-compromising conditions, anaemia and diabetes, smokers and people suffering from dry mouth are all at a higher than normal risk of developing oral thrush. A course of antibiotics can also trigger an attack.

It is rarely serious, but a long-term infection may require treatment. Creamy white lesions on the tongue are one sign of thrush; other symptoms include:

  • White patches in other areas of the mouth.
  • Lesions that look like cottage cheese.
  • Red, cracked corners of the mouth and lips.
  • Loss of taste.
  • Cotton mouth or dry mouth.

Scraping oral thrush spots usually removes the white coating, but this can also cause slight bleeding.

Canker Sores

A white spot or bump on the tongue surrounded by a red, inflamed halo is probably a canker sore. These common and recurring lesions can be small or large and appear on its own or in groups. Canker sores are often painful and scraping does not remove them.

Viruses, bacteria and immune system issues are some suspected causes of canker sores. Trauma, allergies, stress, cigarette smoking, iron and vitamin deficiencies make a person more susceptible for bumps on the tongue.


White or grayish patches, called leukoplakia, usually appear on the gums, the bottom of the mouth or the insides of the cheeks, but sometimes they appear as bumps on the tongue as well. Wiping or scraping does not change their appearance or texture, which may be thick or hardened.

The use of chewing or smoking tobacco is strongly correlated to carcinoma within oral Leukoplakia according to the Journal of Clinical and Diagnostic Research. The condition also carries a small risk of developing into oral cancer.

Hairy Leukoplakia

Fuzzy white patches that appear on the sides of the tongue as ridges or folds are symptoms of hairy leukoplakia. These patches result from infection with the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV), which lasts a lifetime but remains dormant in the body until a weakened immune system sparks an attack.

When to Visit Your Dentist

If a white spot or bump on the tongue does not go away after a week to ten days, visit your doctor to have it checked. Some conditions, like thrush, may go away on their own, but it is always wise to go see your dentist for a consultation to make sure it is not something more.

Most people experience white spots or bumps on the tongue at some point in their lives and for many they are a frequent occurrence. Though the spots are unlikely to be harmful, they could be a sign of something more serious. If you are concerned, a check-up at your dentist can put your mind at rest. To help keep your mouth fresh and healthy and reduce the risks of white spots or bumps on the tongue and other problems, brush your teeth twice a day.

This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.