Bumps under the tongue can be harmless, or they can occur due to an underlying condition. Potential causes include canker sores, cysts, or human papillomavirus (HPV).

Many causes of bumps under the tongue are not serious and may heal on their own. However, people with bumps that do not get better, grow in size, or interfere with talking or swallowing should consult a doctor.

In this article, we cover possible causes of bumps under the tongue and how doctors diagnose and treat them. We also discuss home remedies and when to seek medical treatment.

A woman uses medicated mouthwash to help treat the bump under her tongue.Share on Pinterest
Using medicated mouthwash and practicing good oral hygiene may help relieve symptoms of bumps under the tongue.

There are many possible causes of bumps under the tongue, such as:

Canker sores

Canker sores, also known as aphthous ulcers, are open lesions that can develop anywhere inside the mouth, including under the tongue.

Canker sores appear suddenly. They have no known cause, but they are not contagious. Some researchers believe that canker sores are a type of immune system response.

Other factors can also trigger canker sores, such as:

  • an injury or damage to the tissue underneath the tongue
  • exposure to spicy or acidic foods
  • hormonal changes, such as those that take place during menstruation, pregnancy, or menopause
  • gastrointestinal disorders, such as celiac disease
  • nutritional deficiencies, such as low iron, folate, and vitamin B12
  • physical or emotional stress
  • genetics
  • infections

Most canker sores are minor and resolve on their own within 4–14 days.

Learn more about canker sores on the tongue.


Oral mucous cysts are fluid-filled sacs that form near one of the openings of the salivary glands. Cysts under the tongue are also known as ranulas.

Ranulas appear as soft, swollen lumps that range in color from flesh-colored to dark blue. They tend to periodically disappear when they rupture and reappear when they become irritated by saliva.

Although a person can develop an oral mucous cyst at any age, they usually occur between the ages of 10 and 30 years.

Learn more about mucous cysts.

Human papillomavirus

Human papillomavirus, or HPV, is the most common sexually transmitted infection (STI) in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

HPV infections can lead to lesions in the skin and mucous membranes. According to the CDC, about 40 subtypes of HPV can infect the mouth and throat.

People with minor oral HPV infections do not develop symptoms. However, those who do may notice:

  • small, hard bumps under the tongue or in the mucous membrane inside the mouth
  • bumps that appear white, pink, red, or flesh-colored
  • painless, smooth, and slightly raised bumps
  • a single bump or cluster of bumps

The body can clear an HPV infection within 2 years without medical treatment.

Certain types of HPV have links to cancer, including oral cancer. However, scientists have identified more than 200 HPV subtypes in total. Of those, only 12 are high-risk. People with concerns about this should speak with a doctor.

Learn more about HPV in the mouth.

Lymphoepithelial cyst

Lymphoepithelial cysts are slow growing, noncancerous lesions that develop in the salivary glands. They often occur as a symptom of HIV infections.

These small, firm nodules sit just below the mucus membrane that lines the inside of the mouth. Lymphoepithelial cysts usually appear as flesh-colored, white, or yellow bumps under the tongue or on the floor of the mouth.

Salivary stones

Sialolithiasis is a condition in which stones of crystalized minerals form in the ducts of the salivary glands. These are known as salivary stones. Sialolithiasis is the most common cause of salivary gland swelling.

A stone that forms in the sublingual gland, located underneath the tongue, can lead to a sore, painful bump. Other symptoms of sialolithiasis include:

  • pain or discomfort in the mouth that worsens when eating
  • pain or swelling below the jaw
  • infection in or near the affected gland
  • dry mouth

Learn more about salivary stones.

Salivary gland tumor

A salivary gland tumor that forms in the sublingual gland can lead to a lump or swelling under the tongue or near the jaw. Not all tumors are cancerous, but if a tumor develops in a smaller salivary gland, there is a higher probability that it is.

While most salivary gland tumors do not develop in the sublingual gland, nearly 100% of sublingual gland tumors are cancerous. Salivary gland tumors can lead to:

  • a lump or painful swelling under the tongue or in the jaw, ear, or neck
  • numbness or muscle weakness in part of the face
  • difficulty opening the mouth or swallowing
  • fluid draining from the ear

Learn more about salivary gland cancer.

A doctor can diagnose most causes of bumps under the tongue by carrying out a physical examination and asking the person about their symptoms. They may also review a person’s medical and family history for indications of certain diseases.

A doctor may use diagnostic tests to confirm a diagnosis or rule out other potential causes. These tests may include:

  • blood tests that measure white blood cell counts, to check for an infection
  • a swab culture analysis to identify infectious pathogens, such as bacteria or fungi
  • imaging tests, such as a CT scan or MRI scan, to identify structural changes in the mouth
  • a biopsy, to analyze tissue samples for cancer cells

Many types of bumps under the tongue, such as canker sores and mild HPV infections, can resolve on their own without medical intervention.

If treatment is necessary, it will vary depending on the cause. For example:

  • HPV mouth sore: A doctor can freeze an HPV mouth sore using cryotherapy, or inject it with an antiviral drug.
  • Cysts: A doctor may attempt to drain the cyst. They may recommend removing a cyst using laser therapy or freezing it with cryotherapy.
  • Sialolithiasis: A doctor may treat salivary stones with anti-inflammatory drugs. They can push the stone out by massaging the salivary gland or gently probing the affected area. A doctor may recommend surgery to remove a large salivary stone.
  • Salivary gland tumors: A doctor may recommend surgery for salivary gland tumors. During surgery, they will remove the tumor along with some of the surrounding tissue. If they identify cancer cells elsewhere in the body, they may recommend a systemic treatment, such as radiation therapy or chemotherapy.

The following home remedies may promote healing and help relieve uncomfortable symptoms of tongue bumps:

  • good oral hygiene
  • medicated mouthwash
  • avoiding acidic, spicy, and sugary foods
  • topical gels and numbing solutions
  • quitting smoking and avoiding secondhand smoke, if relevant

Many causes of bumps under the tongue heal on their own. However, people should speak with a doctor if they have a bump under the tongue that does not heal, keeps getting worse, or if the lump:

  • bleeds easily
  • interferes with the ability to speak, swallow, or chew
  • occurs with mouth numbness, burning, or a persistent sore throat

Bumps under the tongue can resolve on their own without treatment. Some bumps heal and reappear months or years later. Other types of tongue bumps resolve and never occur again.

People with more serious underlying conditions, such as salivary gland cancer, can have very positive outlooks if doctors catch the condition at an early stage. Localized salivary gland cancer has a 94% 5-year relative survival rate if it has not had time to spread.

Bumps under the tongue can occur due to a mouth injury, viruses, sores or ulcers, or salivary stones, and other causes.

Many bumps under the tongue resolve relatively quickly and do not require medical treatment. More serious tongue bumps, such as tumors, can be treatable with medication or surgery.