Skip to content


    Attention All WebMD Community Members:

    These message boards are closed to posting. Please head on over to our new WebMD Message Boards to check out and participate in the great conversations taking place:

    Your new WebMD Message Boards are now open!

    Making the move is as easy as 1-2-3.

    1. Head over to this page:

    2. Choose the tag from the drop-down menu that clicks most with you (and add it to any posts you create so others can easily find and sort through posts)

    3. Start posting

    Have questions? Email us anytime at

    Includes Expert Content
    Swollen Taste Buds and somewhat white tongue.
    joewithaproblem posted:
    I've been having these symptoms for a couple of weeks now (enlarged taste buds on back of tongue, white tongue, and red spots. I have no pain in throat or on tongue. I also had an ulcer or two on the tip of my tongue - but those have gone away. Help - What is this???
    ashler responded:
    the big tastebuds in the back of the tongue are normal, everyone has them.

    however, i see you have other enlarged taste buds in some other parts of your tongue.

    I have a similar problem, with a similar whitish tongue:

    my tastebuds are raised near the tip of my tongue. unfortunately, this problem persists for about 5 months now.

    along with the raised tastebuds (which sometimes are painful), the tongue is white, and I have excess of saliva (I think this causes my tongue to be white), and teeth marks in the border.

    i am documenting my case here

    this problems started about 4 months after a sexual exposure with a girl of unknown status for STIs/HIV.
    Gwen Cohen Brown, DDS, FAAOMP responded:
    Hi joewithaproblem,

    Although I cannot diagnose on line the attached photo looks like a totally benign clinical condition known as Geographic Tongue. The red areas tend to look flat without the little hairlike papilla (the normal white hairlike projections kniwn as filliform papilla)and often have a slightly raised white border.

    The reason it is called Geographic Tongue - or benign migratory glossitis - is that 90% of the time it occurs only on the tongue, usually the lateral (side) borders and the top of the tongue. It tends to be seen on the anterior third of the tongue (tip) but can occur anywhere.

    This is a well known condition and is often hereditary and seen with another condition known as fissured tongue. So the next time you see your parents, siblings or children look in their mout and more likely than not someone else will have a similar looking tongue.

    This is a variation of normal. It is not spreading on your tongue it is getting better in one place and developing in another. It is not contagious you did not get it from anyone and you cannot give it to anyone. It is not caused by a virus. It is not a canker sore, cold sore or yeast infection.

    The reason it can be painful is that the little white hairlike papilla are composed of keratin like your skin hair and nails. We do not know why these papilla fall off with geographic tongue however we know that they do. Without this protection the papilla provide your tongue is naked in these areas and therefore may be uncomfortable with hot, spicy or acidic foods. The papilla will gow back, give it some time.

    On a purely anecdotal level, and I have seen hundreds of patients with Geographic Tongue it does seem to become more active with stress. I suggest that you see your dentist to confirm the diagnosis. It is a clinical diagnosis and neither lab tests or biopsy is required. In general I do not treat geographic tongue unless it has become secondarily infected with yeast or bacteria however in my entire career as an oral pathologist I have probably only teated a handful of patients.

    It is often misdiagnosed as an oral yeast infection. The anti fungal medication may provide some relief but it is really only treating a secondary yeast infection and the effect is mostly placebo. Yeast is a normal part of your oral flora and keeps your mouth balanced and healthy. If anyone tries to culture your tongue or do a scraping run for the door. if you need a diagnostic procedure you should have a biopsy. and for the record it is not suggestive of a systemic yeast infection, and it is not due to eating bread. If this is geographic tongue antibiotics are never an appropriate treatment, in fact antibiotics will probably make your tongue feel worse. It is not bacterial.

    I have found that most people, once they have a diagnosis, are much less stressed about their tongue (with a diagnosis) which will actually make it hurt less. Stop looking at it, playing with it and worrying about it. If it continues to bother you I suggest seeing either a specialist in oral medicine or oral pathology.

    If you are using a alcohol based mouth rinse stop it will give you a chemical burn on the unprotected areas of the tongue. In fact stop all mouth rinses and use the most bland old fashioned tooth paste you can find, stay away from the whitening products and look for a toothpaste without SLS. Your pharmacist can help you find one. Do not use hydrogen peroxide as that may also cause a chemical burn. Do not use "organic" toothpaste, many have volatile oils which can also cause a superficial chemical burn. I know it seems like it would be a good idea but in many cases it will make the burning feeling much worse.

    Basically once you have confirmed the diagnosis it will be less of a concern, less stress and faster resolution.

    I hope this helps.

    Dr. Gwen Cohen Brown
    joewithaproblem replied to Gwen Cohen Brown, DDS, FAAOMP's response:
    Thanks for your response.
    Kami_26 responded:
    Hi, I have had the same problem for 7 weeks now. I feel for you because it is so irritating! What did you do to treat it and cure the problem. Everything I use even salt water seems to make it have a stinging burning sensation.

    ashler replied to Kami_26's response:
    Kami, can you detail your problem? do you have raised tastebuds? if so, where in your tongue? are these raised tastebuds painful?
    girlwithaproblem27 replied to ashler's response:
    I may not be the person who you were replying to, but could you help me if I gave you my symptoms? You seem to know a lot.
    ashler replied to girlwithaproblem27's response:
    you can reply under this topic:
    An_252018 replied to Gwen Cohen Brown, DDS, FAAOMP's response:
    Thank you Dr. Brown for your in-depth description of the condition and explanation of treatment options. I have been suffering from this hopefully geographic tongue syndrome for the last 2 months. I have visited my dentist and was given chlorhexadine oral rinse and unfortunately did not improve and the spots moved from top of my tongue to side of my tongue. By spots I mean red spots. Then I visited my PCP and she looked at it and thought that the surface of my tooth on side of soars had roughness and said to visit my dentist to smooth it out and also gave me augmentin Zpac. She also said to stop taking the oral rinse. I took the antibiotics and the next day visited my dentist. My dentist smoothed out the rough filling on the back and said that it was probably normal. Well after 2 weeks it did not go away so I visited with ENT doctor who looked at it and said I would obtain some relievf and possible cure from this combination of drugs that is mixed in a syrup called the magic oral rinse. Apprecntly consits of anti-inflammatry components. I have been taking that every 6 hours for 1 week and it has not made much change except it makes me feel very sleepy. As you can tell I am still browsing for answers until I have come across you article and think you might have neiled it to the point, as I have been stressing out about my board exam. THe weired thing is that when I wake up in the morning my tongue is calm and quite but as I have breakfast then it starts to pick back up being dry and burning sensation. The papillae in back of my tongue is still enlarges and top surface becomes whiter by end of day. I would like to add that I take Hydrocodon Acetemetaphine 7.5/750 2x per day for the last 2 years for chronic wrist pain and shoulder ache. I also take ambient for insomnia. I am 40 years old and have no other symptoms or conditions.
    SO far your article has given me more informative information compare to my DDS and my MD and ENT,. I would like to attach a fee pics of my current tongue status and would like to know if further diagnostic testing required.
    I like to mind you that I am studying for my board examination due in July. DO you think that these lesions and white tongue is due to my stress? Thank you so kindly for your time and consideration. You have certainly made me feel less stressful and less aware of my tongues symptoms. I Look forward to hearing from you soon. God bless.
    dee19741 responded:
    mate my tongue is exact same as yours what is it?
    dee19741 replied to Gwen Cohen Brown, DDS, FAAOMP's response:
    hi dr.gwen are you 100% sure thats what it is ,have you examine the pic he posted close,i really need to know because i have same as his tongue in evey way and was worried that it was hiv or something ,please can you reply asap many thanks
    fcgier responded:
    This description sounds exactly like what I've been experiencing, except that I have small red patches instead of spots and the primary inflamed buds are painful, or at least uncomfortable, especially when I swallow. I have discovered that staying well hydrated tends to alleviate much of the discomfort, and my symptoms tend to get worse when I let myself dry out. I'm not sure if that's typical, but thought it might help someone if it's not a unique connection.
    Gwen Cohen Brown, DDS, FAAOMP replied to An_252018's response:
    I hope that you are feeling better and the boards were successful. More than likely you will feel better with lower stress. Remember that it can't be cured and most miracle mouthwash do not treat the condition they only suppress the symptoms. Dr. Gwen Cohen Brown
    Gwen Cohen Brown, DDS, FAAOMP replied to dee19741's response:
    Hi dee19741, Without seeing you face to face I cannot confirm that you have the same thing. I would suggest that you ask your dentist or physician to look at your tongue at your next visit and perhaps show them the link to this posting. Dr. Gwen Cohen Brown
    Gwen Cohen Brown, DDS, FAAOMP replied to ashler's response:
    Hi Ashler, I understand that you are uncomfortable and that you have not been given a diagnosis just a bunch of things you do not have. If you want a diagnosis don't waste your time or money going to doctors, getting blood tests, and trying treatments that do not work. If you need a definitive diagnosis you must get a biopsy and the biopsy must go to an oral pathologist. General pathologists see very few oral biopsies and are not as familiar with oral conditions. Until you know what you have you cannot begin to treat it and all of the tests you have had have not done the only thing that will give you a diagnosis. Get a biopsy and find a doctor who has an advanced degree in oral pathology or oral medicine. If you don't you will continue to be given diagnosed of exclusion, it's not HIV, it's not STD. This is nice to know but it hasn't told you what it is. If they will not biopsy the tongue leave the office and find a board certified oral surgeon who should be able to help.

    For the record geographic tongue is a genetic condition which tends to become worse during stress and often follows a sexual encounter. People think that they caught something performing oral sex, usually with a stranger. In all of my cases oral sex was not a contributory factor. I have had hundreds of patients with geographic tongue, many of whom related the changes on their tongue to the prior evenings activities. Stress and to some degree guilt can make the symptoms of geographic tongue flair.

    Dr. Gwen Cohen Brown

    Helpful Tips

    Dentures and implantsExpert
    Technically speaking, a denture is any prosthetic use to replace a partial, or a complete dentition. It can be fixed (permanent), such as a ... More
    Was this Helpful?
    24 of 34 found this helpful

    Related Drug Reviews

    • Drug Name User Reviews

    Report Problems With Your Medications to the FDA

    FDAYou are encouraged to report negative side effects of prescription drugs to the FDA. Visit the FDA MedWatch website or call 1-800-FDA-1088.

    For more information, visit Dr. Kaufman's website