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Dental and Oral Health Center

Bump at the back of tongue

12/31/2007

Question:

Hi. Recently my wife had a sore throat and was self-inspecting her tonsils with a flashlight and mirror. For a frame of reference, she wanted to compare hers to mine. Upon looking at my tonsils she said, "That thing (uvula) at the back of your throat is huge!" Later, I inspected it for myself and it turned out, while my uvula is larger than hers, what made it look so big was that it was resting on top of a pea-sized nodule on the back of my tongue. Upon further inspection, I noticed the nodule is the same color as my tongue and uvula (a normal reddish) and that it is really far back on my tongue, meaning I have to stick my tongue all the way out for it to show itself just behind my uvula. I am a 32-year-old, non-smoker and I rarely have a drink. I am a health nut and am concerned. Please advise.

Answer:

What you describe could be several things, but the most likely is that you have just discovered something called a circumvallate papilla. Usually there are 8 to 12 of these pea-sized bumps on the back upper portion of the tongue that form a V pointing to the throat. The one/ones in center of the tongue occasionally are a little more visible because of the arch formed by the tongue when you stick it out. These normal tongue structures contain some of our taste buds.

If this bump seems more singular (you can't find any of its siblings or you did and this one looks different) I would suggest you see your dentist or an oral surgeon for more definitive advice and treatment if any is deemed necessary.

Hope this helps.

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Response by:

John R Kalmar, DMD, PhD John R Kalmar, DMD, PhD
Clinical Professor of Pathology
College of Dentistry
The Ohio State University