Warts are flesh-colored bumps caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV). Oral HPV can be transmitted from person to person, so it’s important to take precautions.

Warts can form anywhere on the body, such as the hands or genital area. Oral HPV is a common condition, too.

About 10% of men and 3.6% of women have oral HPV, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Here’s what you need to know about tongue warts, including types, treatments, and prevention.

Different strains of HPV cause tongue warts.

Common types of warts that can be found on the tongue include:

  • Squamous papilloma. These cauliflower-like lesions are white and result from HPV strains 6 and 11.
  • Verruca vulgaris. These bumps are caused by HPV 2 and 4.
  • Focal epithelial hyperplasia. Also known as Heck’s disease, these lesions are linked to HPV 13 and 32.
  • Condyloma acuminata. These lesions are found in the genital area but can spread to the tongue through sexual contact. It’s associated with HPV 2, 6, and 11.

Tongue warts may develop after performing oral sex if the receptive partner has genital warts. If your partner has oral HPV, it may also be possible to contract the virus if you engage in open-mouth kissing.

If you touch a wart with your hand and then put that part of your hand in your mouth, you could develop a wart on your tongue. For example, if you bite your nails, you could introduce a wart virus from your fingers to your mouth.

Certain factors can make you more susceptible. This includes having a weakened immune system, which makes it harder for your body to fight off viruses.

If you have a cut or scrape, the virus can also enter your body through a break in the skin.

Some warts will go away on their own without treatment. However, this can take months and years.

While tongue warts are usually harmless, they can be a nuisance. This depends on the wart size and whether it causes pain or makes it difficult to eat or talk.

While you wait for a wart to disappear, try eating on the side of your mouth opposite the wart. This can reduce irritation. You’re less likely to bite down on the wart, too.

You can also consult with a healthcare professional about treatment options for a wart that doesn’t improve or one that you’d like removed.

One option to remove a wart is through cryotherapy. This procedure uses cold liquid nitrogen to freeze off the abnormal tissue.

Another option is electrosurgery. This involves using a strong electric current to cut through the wart and remove abnormal cells or tissues.

Both treatments work for different types of warts that develop on the tongue.

Since HPV — whether warts are present or not — can be transmitted by skin-to-skin contact, the only surefire way to prevent warts and other HPV infections is to abstain from all intimate and sexual contact.

This is often not realistic, though, which makes communicating with your partners even more important. Talk with your partners about your HPV status and ask about theirs.

You might also consider getting screened for sexually transmitted infections (STIs), such as chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis. This allows you to have a fully informed conversation with your partners about your overall status.

Generally speaking, it’s best to avoid open-mouth kissing and oral sex if you or a partner have a wart on your tongue. Using a condom, dental dam, or other barrier can help reduce the risk of transmission.

Getting the HPV vaccine — and asking your partners to — can also help reduce the risk of infection. The vaccine protects against several strains of HPV, so it can still be beneficial even if you have previously been exposed.

The CDC recommends the vaccine for children and adults between ages 11 and 26, though adults up to age 45 can get vaccinated.

Are warts on the tongue permanent?

Oftentimes, HPV clears up on its own within two years of infection. Warts on the tongue will likely go away once your body has cleared the infection.

Are warts on the tongue a sign of oral cancer?

It’s unlikely. The strains of HPV known to cause warts are considered “lower risk” because they rarely cause cancer, according to the American Cancer Society.

What else can cause a bump or lesion on the tongue?

Of course, not every bump on the tongue is a wart. Other possibilities include:

See a dentist or dermatologist to diagnose any unusual lesion or bump that appears in your mouth.

Although warts on the tongue typically do not require treatment, a healthcare professional can discuss your options for removal. They can also offer guidance on how to prevent transmission to others.