Acid bumps are small, raised white or red sores on the surface of the tongue. They are traditionally known as "lie bumps" due to a folk belief that telling lies caused them to appear. Medically, these sores are known as "transient lingual papillitis," or TLP. They do not appear to be caused by acidic food or drinks, although consuming acidic drinks during an outbreak may aggravate the sores.
Most acid bumps are caused by trauma to the tongue, either through contact with the teeth or with sharp or abrasive food. When a fungiform papilla is damaged, it has the potential to become inflamed, resulting in a painful and visible acid bump. They are also common in people with braces or other dental appliances in cases where a rough or sharp piece of metal rubs against the tongue.
Some people suffer acid bumps after coming into contact with certain foods, which could explain why many connect them to acidic food or drinks. However, this is more likely to be an allergic reaction that causes the fungiform papillae to become inflamed and sore, as the foods involved vary widely from person to person, and many of the triggering foods do not have high acid contents.
Viral Acid Bumps
In some cases, acid bumps may have a viral component, especially in concentrated or extended outbreaks. Children sometimes have serious cases of TLP, along with fever and flu-like symptoms. This can even be spread to other members of the family. One theory suggests that acid bumps are caused by a systemic virus that manifests itself in children and lies mostly dormant in the system for the rest of their lives.
There is no clinical treatment for acid bumps, since they are usually a minor irritant that will go away on their own in hours or days. Most home remedies center around relieving the pain and irritation of acid bumps rather than curing the bumps themselves, and include rinsing with salt water or mouthwash, drinking cold liquids, or eating yogurt and other soothing foods. In some cases, topical steroids are said to provide relief, although this has little clinical basis.