It is our tongues that are responsible for all of our taste sensations, help us swallow, not to mention let us communicate through speech. Papillae are connected with the way we experience taste. These small structures help us to determine whether we taste something as sweet, salty, sour, or bitter. They also help us determine the often bland tastes of food we would rather go without. No matter what we are putting in our mouths, it is the papillae that help us distinguish it’s taste. The tastebuds are what forms around the papillae, and these little structures in our mouth are an intricate part of the entire system.
There are actually four different types of papillae that can be found on the tongue. Knowing the difference between them is not altogether important, but is interesting in knowing what determines different tastes upon the pallet. Below are the four different types of papillae found on the tongue and a little more information on each.
4 Different Types of Papillae on the Tongue
1. Fungiform Papillae
These mushroom shaped papillae are what helps us detect sweet and sour tastes. You know that feeling you get in the sides of your mouth after eating sour candy? This is the fungiform papillae at work. They are located in a scattered way across the top of the tongue, but most are found on the sides of the tongue (think sour candy) and the apex of the tongue.
2. Filiform Papillae
These papillae are why we have that abrasive coating on our tongue. The filiform papillae are V-shaped and are long and thin. There are more filiform papillae than any other on the tongue and somewhat like the fungiform, help us to determine sour taste. The filiform, however, don’t have anything to do with sweet sensations.
3. Circumvallate Papillae
These papillae are situated in a V-shape form on the back end of the tongue that heads toward the throat. These are the papillae with the least amount, with most people only having between ten and fourteen. The taste buds surrounding these papillae are very prone to picking up the bitter tastes found in many foods.
4. Foliate Papillae
These papillae are situated on the sides of the tongue and contain a rather elongated fold with them. Clustered into two groups, they help to determine whether something is salty.
We don’t really every give much thought to our papillae until something goes wrong. When our papillae become enlarged its pretty hard not to think about them. Papillae that become infected or irritated and enlarged can be painful and make even the most normal tasks like eating and drinking extremely painful. While enlarged papillae is often normal, there are some conditions that cause the unnecessary enlargement of the papillae on the tongue. The following are all causes of painful papillae on the tongue and should be noted on the level of their severity.
Causes of Enlarged Papillae on the Tongue
• Smoking Cigarettes
We all know how harmful smoking is to our health, yet there are millions of people around the world who continue to light up every day. Smoking excessively can lead to some very serious health conditions, including emphysema and many types of cancers. A less serious side effect, but a harmful side effect all the same is the irritation smoking causes to the tongue. Smoking cigarettes is often the cause of enlarged and sore papillae on the tongue.
• Gastrointestinal Issues
Believe it or not, there are some problems in our guts that will lead to enlarged papillae on the tongue. Our bodies are intricately connected in more ways than we could possibly imagine. When issues such as GERD or ulcerative colitis appear within our system, one of the symptoms they carry are enlarged papillae on the tongue.
Stress is the cause of a number of different health problems and is definitely a contributing factor to enlarged papillae on the tongue. Enlarged papillae may be further irritated when canker sores form along with them. Stress will only make symptoms more painful and taking the measures to reduce stress in your life is highly advised.
Infections on the tongue are no joke and can become extremely painful when left untreated. Infections of this kind can be caused by a number of reasons such as excessive biting on the tongue (a habit many people have), eating foods that contain too much acid such as an excess of citrus or too much caffeine, as well as eating something that is too hot.
• Oral Cancer
Enlarged papillae on the tongue could be a sign of something much more serious than a simple infection. Oral cancer strikes more people than you might think, and if symptoms of swollen papillae on the tongue continue to worsen or do not get any better in a few weeks, it may be a sign of oral cancer. Consulting a professional medical technician is highly advised if you have even the slightest indication that you may have oral cancer.
6 Treatments for Enlarged and Painful Papillae on the Tongue
There are ways to relieve the pain associated with painful, enlarged papillae on the tongue. Many of these remedies can be used at home without the need to visit a doctor. If symptoms are severe and do not go away after a week or two, it may be wise to see a professional. Here are some easy tips that may help and leave you feeling normal in no time.
1. Stop Smoking
If you are a smoker and are experiencing painful papillae on the tongue, you should immediately stop smoking. Not only is smoking a major cause for papillae on the tongue, but is also seriously detrimental to your overall health. When you notice papillae are becoming painful, it is important to quit your habit. If you feel that you absolutely cannot quit smoking, try purchasing an electronic cigarette. Although it still contains nicotine, it is much less invasive to the body.
2. Engage in Good Oral Hygiene
Properly taking care of your mouth will ensure that you do not develop painful, enlarged papillae. By taking the time to brush your teeth at least twice a day, you will take the steps to avoid this uncomfortable condition. You should also take care to brush the tongue everyday and may want to think about investing in a tongue scraper to remove excess bacteria. Flossing is also extremely important in maintaining good oral hygiene and will only increase your chances of maintaining a healthy mouth.
3. Avoid Spicy Foods
As delicious as spicy foods may be to some, they also tend to cause the enlargement of papillae on the tongue and help induce the pain that goes along with it. If you find that papillae become painful, you should stop eating spicy foods at once. Until symptoms improve, it is wise to steer clear of anything with extra spice such as curries and dishes made with jerk seasoning. If you notice that symptoms return when you resume eating these foods, it is a wise decision to cut them out of your diet completely.
4. Gargle with Salt Water
When papillae become painful, you should gargle with salt water regularly three times a day until symptoms improve. Salt will help kill any bacteria that may be causing painful papillae to form. If they are the cause of an allergy, the salt water rinse will help in relieving symptoms associated with the allergy. Papillae that become irritated are often signs of a cold, and gargling with salt water can also help if this is indeed the case.
5. Eat Some Yogurt
Yogurt can be a great way to help rid of painful papillae on the tongue. Yogurt contains essential probiotics and will greatly improve gastrointestinal flora. This will restore balance to the body and help to quickly relieve painful symptoms. You may also try increasing dairy products such as low-fat milk to see if symptoms improve. If you cannot stand yogurt, there are probiotic pills that are widely available that will do just as good a job as yogurt to introduce healthy bacteria to the system.
6. Increase B12 and Iron Intake
Vitamin B12 is one of the most essential vitamins you can put in your system. Deficiencies in this powerful vitamin may cause sores in the mouth and irritate papillae on the tongue. You should always maintain healthy levels of vitamin B12 for increased energy and better concentration as well.