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Inflamed Taste Buds

Kanika Khara Jan 22, 2019
Inflammation of the taste buds impairs the ability to taste food. It does not occur often that the taste buds alone get inflamed without an involvement of the rest of the tongue. In most cases, there is some other condition underlying the cause for this inflammation.
The sensation of taste is a result of the interaction of food with receptor cells (taste cells). These are tiny cells located within the taste buds which are present on the tongue, pharynx, larynx, roof of the mouth, and the esophagus. They are embedded within structures called papillae. These are the foliate, fungiform and the circumvallate papillae.
There are tiny pores on the taste buds through which the saliva-mixed chemical substances in the food come in contact with. The nerves connected to the taste buds carry these chemical signals to the brain, and this is how we perceive taste.
It is well-known that taste is actually a complex sensation arising from a blend of chemical signals of food substances and olfactory signals from the nose. The unique flavor of food is the result of this blending.

Various Causes

An alteration in taste perception may be due to direct damage to the taste buds, or due to decreased or defective production of taste cells. The effect, in both cases, is the same. It is hard to distinguish, sometimes, whether the taste alteration is due to the former or the latter. Some of the causes for inflamed taste buds are:
  • Lesions on the tongue
  • Rashes on the tongue due to thrush (yeast infection)
  • Chemotherapy for cancer
  • Radiation therapy for cancer
  • Several bacterial and viral or parasitic infections
  • Exposure to pesticides or tobacco smoke
  • Nutritional deficiencies, especially vitamin B12 and vitamin B6
  • Consumption of very hot or very spicy food
  • Physical trauma to the tongue, like cuts, burns and lacerations
  • Invasive carcinomas
  • Tongue brushing, especially if done vigorously
  • Ill-fitting dentures
  • Use of certain types of mouthwashes
  • Many medicines affect the taste buds and cause a distortion of taste in the mouth
  • Allergy to acidic food like lemons, sauces, grapefruits, etc.

Remedies Available

Taste buds have a weekly rate of renewal, so their inflammation is not really a cause for concern in most cases. Nevertheless, treatment options are:
 Applying glycerin soothes the tongue and provides relief from the burning sensation often associated with inflamed buds due to cuts, burns, lacerations and consumption of hot foods.
 The practice of brushing the tongue too vigorously should be stopped.
 Gargle with warm salt water, but make sure the water is not too hot.
 Applying baking soda on the taste buds will help in relieving the inflammation.
 Gargling with tea tree oil is very effective for treating this kind of inflammation.
 Nutritional deficiencies should be corrected by taking supplements for a while and then switching over to natural foods.
 Ill-fitting dentures should be replaced with proper ones immediately.
 A strong mouthwash should be replaced with a milder one which does not contain the harsh ingredients causing the inflammation.
 Smoking should be stopped immediately.
 All infections caused by bacteria, fungi, viruses and parasites need to be treated with proper medicines. Don't try home remedies for these.
 Lesions that are suspected of, or confirmed, of being cancerous should be treated without delay by a doctor.
√ If the inflammation is due to medicines, radiation therapy, cancer chemotherapy, consult your doctor.
Disclaimer: This is for informative purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for professional medical advice.