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What Are ‘Lie Bumps’ on Your Tongue, Really?

Were you ever told that the tiny bumps that occasionally pop up on your tongue were a sign you’d recently told a real whopper of a fib? Commonly known as “lie bumps” thanks to an old wives’ tale, they are actually what the medical community calls transient lingual papillitis. That title is admittedly a mouthful, though, so the guilt-inducing name has stuck around longer. But what are they, really? 

A 2017 study from the Journal of Clinical and Experimental Dentistry shed a bit more light on the subject. The researchers note how the often painful condition certainly isn’t rare and that the bumps also tend to heal on their own fairly quickly. The researchers observed most bumps only lasting between one and 14 days. That said, they unfortunately weren’t able to pin down an exact cause for why they pop up in the first place.

It’s important to keep track of how long the bumps last and whether other symptoms like fever or swollen glands also occur. These could all point to signs that the condition is actually eruptive lingual papillitis instead, which is more common in children and is caused by a contagious virus.

Although there’s still no clear understanding of what causes normal “lie bumps,” MedicalNewsToday lists these potential factors:

  • Foods high in acid or sugar, or that are very spicy
  • Stress and inflammation
  • Biting the tongue
  • Food allergies

The bumps usually disappear after just a few days, but you can try treating them by rinsing with salt water, brushing your teeth after every meal, and using mouthwash to reduce bacteria in your mouth. If it doesn’t get any better after two weeks, or the bumps become more irritated, you should definitely make an appointment with your doctor. Otherwise, just wait and breathe a sigh of relief that the annoying condition doesn’t actually pop up every time we tell a little white lie. Depending on how honest you’re feeling, you would be dealing with the issue pretty much constantly if the old wives’ tale had any truth to it.

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