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Circumvallate Papillae

Last reviewed by Dr. Raj MD on January 12th, 2022.

Papillae are normal structure on the tongue. They are circular bumps on the surface of the tongue, which give the tongue a bumpy appearance. They are useful in distinguishing different taste. There are four types of papillae on the tongue; the fungiform, foliate, filiform, and circumvallate papillae. (1)

What is the foliate papillae?

This specific type of papillae is grouped into two clusters and each has an extended fold. They are found on the sides of the tongue. They contain a thousand taste buds. (1)

What is filiform papillae?

A lot of it can be found on the surface of the tongue. They look like hair or thread and are noticeable on the front 2/3 of the tongue. The filiform papillae function is to protect the tongue by acting as an abrasive cover. It also plays a huge role in detecting sour taste. (2)

What is fungiform papillae?

They are found on the sides and tip of the tongue and their function is to detect sweet and sour tastes. (2)

An anatomical structure of the tongue outlining the different papillae.picture

Image 1 : An anatomical structure of the tongue outlining the different papillae.
Photo Source : ehealthhall.com

A closer view of an enlarged papillae.image

Picture 2 : A closer view of an enlarged papillae.
Photo Source : ehealthhall.com

What is circumvallate papillae?

They are the largest papillae on the tongue and arranged in a V-shape. The wall of circumvallate papillae contains a number of taste buds. The function of circumvallate papillae is to detect bitter taste. The bitter taste triggers gag reflex.

A lot of people usually have six to twelve circumvallate papillae. In each circumvallate papilla, there are 250 to 270 bitter responsive taste buds. However, the number varies from one person to another. Those with lesser number CP love salty foods.

Those with high number of CV are sensitive to bitter taste. In fact, they complain that the cheese tastes bitter. The number of circumvallate papillae and taste buds decreases as the person grows old. Vices such as smoking can also lessen the number. Studies showed that women have more taste buds than men. (2, 3)

Circumvallate Papillae Inflammation

There are some instances wherein the circumvallate papillae become enlarged and inflamed. Most of the time, it is because of some physiological changes in the mouth, particularly in the tongue. It will eventually resolve on its own.

However, there are instances when enlarged circumvallate papillae symptoms are pronounced and bothersome. There are some underlying causes for enlarged circumvallate papillae.

These are the following: (4)

  • Pernicious anemia – This condition causes the tongue to be swollen, bulky, tender, and reddish.
  • Folic acid deficiency/vitamin B12 deficiency – The tongue appears red, swollen, and tender.
  • Riboflavin deficiency – The tongue has a magenta color, beefy appearance with noticeable fissuring of the corner of the mouth.
  • Pellagra – This condition is caused by deficiency in niacin. The tongue has a reddened beefy appearance and is painful to touch.
  • Macroglossia – A noticeable bulging of the tongue. (4, 5,6)
  • Aspergillus Niger Infection – It is caused by prolonged used of antibiotic such as Penicillin. The tongue becomes hairy and brown to black in color.
  • Thrush – The mucus membranes in the oral cavity are inflamed causing the tongue to swell. The tongue has a noticeable white coating. (6)

What causes enlarged circumvallate papillae on tongue?

  • Excessive smoking
  • Side effects of medications
  • Stress leading to canker sores
  • Oral cancer
  • Mouth ulcer
  • Throat infection
  • Viral infection
  • Gastrointestinal Tract (GI) disorders like GERD (gastro esophageal reflex disease) and
  • ulcerative colitis
  • Allergy to foods
  • Accident consumption of toxic substances like pesticides, poison, and alcohol
  • Vitamin deficiency
  • Tongue irritation secondary to consumption of salty, spicy, and hot foods
  • Trauma to the tongue such as accidental biting or injury from excessive brushing (6, 7,8)

How do you get rid of an enlarged papillae?

An enlarged circumvallate papillae usually heals on its own without requiring any treatment. However, there are simple things you can do to hasten the healing process. This includes the following:

  • Cold compress is one of the common remedies for enlarged circumvallate papillae. It will also help if you are going to drink cold beverage, lick an ice cream, or put an ice cube in your mouth. It will help in alleviating the pain and discomfort.
  • Enlarged circumvallate papillae treatment secondary to throat infection includes gargling with saline water (salty lukewarm water). (8)
  • Hydration and nutrition help in the healing process. Eat a well-balanced diet, especially fruits and vegetables rich in vitamins and minerals. Increase your intake of fluid to help the body flush out harmful toxins from the body. You have to increase your intake of foods rich in vitamin B12 and iron. This simple measure can actually help in reducing the inflammation of the tongue.
  • If the enlargement of CV is caused by mouth ulcers or viral infections, the best remedy is to take antibiotics or antiviral medications. It can be applied topically or taken internally to relieve the discomfort and alleviate the pain. (9)
  • Essential oils can also help in alleviating the pain and discomfort. Gargling tea tree oil helps in the enlargement of circumvallate papillae because of its anti-fungal and anti-bacterial property.
  • Always keep your mouth clean at all times. When brushing, you should use toothbrush with soft bristles. You should use toothpaste, especially formulated for sensitive teeth.
  • If you are smoking, you have to stop it momentarily for it can further aggravate the infection. If possible, you should completely stop smoking. It is not only bad for your oral health, but all over your body.

An enlarged circumvallate papillae should not cause an alarm because the condition usually goes away on its own. Simple home remedies like the ones mentioned above can help alleviate the pain and discomfort.

The pain and inflammation can go on for a couple of days. If the pain and inflammation become severe despite home remedies, then the best thing to do is to seek medical help right away. The doctor might need to prescribe analgesic, anti-fungal, or antibacterial medication, depending on the root cause of the problem. (9, 10)


  1. www.steadyhealth.com
  2. ehealthhall.com
  3. medicaltreasure.com
  4. www.healcure.org
  5. https://wealthformyhealth.com
  6. www.livestrong.com
  7. www.medhelp.org
  8. www.healthcaretip.com
  9. www.healthcaremagic.com
  10. health.knowfacts.org

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