Circumvallate Papillae

Circumvallate Papillae Definition

Circumvallate Papillae also knew as Vallate Papillae are the biggest papillae on the tongue. They are located at the back of the tongue and arranged in a V-shape pattern. Most individuals have 6 to 12 papillae that help them to taste the bitterness of a food.

They work like sensors and are organized in two rows each having 1mm to 2mm projections of the mucous membranes. There is a connection between the projections and base of the mucous membrane forming a circular depression. The border or edge of this circular depression is known as vallum or wall.

Circumvallate Papillae Characteristics

The Circumvallate Papillae are located at the back part of the tongue and give an appearance of inverted V-shape directing towards the throat. One can see them only after sticking out the tongue completely.
These are embedded with taste buds, mainly helpful in identifying the bitter or bad taste. They appear like small cones with the base attached to the upper surface of the tongue. The Von Ebner’s Glands ducts or the VEG ducts and the lingual salivary glands at the circular depression separate their serous secretions and function as a moat.
The serous secretions help washing away food debris and provide fresh taste to the tongue.

Circumvallate Papillae Location and Origin

The circumvallate papillae are located on the back part of the tongue and contain taste buds. With the hair-like structures situated at the surface of taste buds, also called as taste pores, they help to detect dissolved chemicals within the food. As a result, it leads to the trigger of receptor cells within the taste buds and the mechanism to taste.

Circumvallate Papillae Location

Circumvallate Papillae Location

Circumvallate Papillae Anatomy

The circumvallate papillae are responsible for the sensations of the taste. They have taste buds located on their surface. These papillae are situated on the back of the Palatine section and are organized in a V-shaped series pointed towards the throat.
The structure of these papillae is quite bulging and they appear round like a domed castle. Also, these are surrounded by a deep layer of the moat. Numerous taste buds are arranged on the tiers on the outer walls and on the outer as well as the inner banks of the dike. At the bottom of the moat, there are multiple secretory glands that generate watery mucus enveloping the taste buds. The circumvallate papillae have sensitive taste buds that have the core function to taste and sense bitter flavors.

Circumvallate Papillae Functions

Circumvallate Papillae contains taste buds and the number of taste buds means that a person has better power to taste and sense foodstuffs. It is because of the more numbers of taste buds, the better is the sensation power. Usually, the number of taste buds in circumvallate papillae varies from 250 to 270.
It is possible to identify any unpalatable taste with the help of circumvallate papillae. Also, these papillae restrict swallowing or intake of any poisonous substances or one having an awful taste.
As the age increases the numbers of taste buds in circumvallate papillae decreases to a great extent and hence the power of tasting also reduces. Also, regular intake of nicotine can damage the taste buds at an early taste. The number of circumvallate papillae may also be influenced as per the gender, culture, and genetics.

Circumvallate Papillae Pictures

Image of Circumvallate Papillae

Picture of Circumvallate Papillae

Circumvallate Papillae Clinical Complications


There can be depapillation of the tongue during which the lingual papillae are lost. This results in the occurrence of a thered and sore area on the surface of papillae. Some of the common clinical complications resulted in this situation are geographic tongue, glossitis, and median rhomboid glossitis. This situation occurs mainly because of deficiency of vitamin B, folic acid, iron, and deficiency of other vital nutrients.


This is another clinical complication related to inflammation of the papillae. In this situation, the papillae appear swollen. It mainly occurs due to inflammatory effect of lingual tonsil.

Circumvallate Papillae Blood Supply

Although it lies in the anterior region of the tongue, it receives the blood supply not from chorda tympani of the face, but through glossopharyngeal. The glossopharyngeal is the nerve in the posterior third of the tongue or the embryological region. This nerve also compromises sensory, motor, and parasympathetic components.

Circumvallate Papillae Histology

The circumvallate papillae are encompassed by keratinized stratified squamous epithelium layer at the superficial surface. It is lined by non-keratinized epithelium layer on the lateral surface. It has taste buds on the central surface.
There are connective tissues in the central region of the papillae and they also contain serous minor salivary glands, also known as Von Ebner’s glands that are situated beneath the connective tissue.

Types of Diseases

There can be an enlargement of circumvallate papillae. Other than this, one can experience various ailments related to their unhealthy tongue.
Pernicious Anemia –During this ailment, the tongue is reddish, swollen and tender from the surface of papillary atrophy.
• Deficiency of Folic Acid or Vitamin B12 –If you experience swelling in the tongue along with tenderness and inflammation, then this can be due to deficiency of Vitamin B12 or folic acid. Further, it can lead to papillary atrophy.
Thrush –This disease is symbolized by white, snow-colored fungal patches on the tongue with stomatitis, which is inflammation of the mucous membrane.
Macroglossia–During this condition, the tongue becomes highly swollen and elevated and appears bulging.
Infection due to Aspergillus Niger –This is caused due to chronic use of Penicillin and makes the tongue appear blackish or brownish. Even one may experience a slight hair like growth on the tongue surface without any pain.
Pellagra –In this condition, the tongue appears black and it is slightly painful as well. It occurs mainly due to deficiency of niacin.

Causes of Enlarged Circumvallate Papillae

There are numerous causes for the problem of enlarged circumvallate papillae such as:
Oral Cancer – The problem of oral cancer can result in damaging of the taste buds to a great extent.
Throat or Viral Infections – If there is any viral or throat infection, then this can result in enlarged and painful circumvallate papillae. The situation is not much complicated and gets self-treated overtime. Most of the times, the situation is accompanied by high fever.
Anticancer Medicines – There are some cancer-fighting medicines like methotrexate that can cause inflammation and enlargement of the Papillae.
Consuming too much Spicy, Salty, and hot food – If you consume too spicy, hot, or salty food then your tongue might become irritated. Even this can damage the papillae and the taste buds.
Mouth Ulcers – The ulcers in the mouth due to bacterial infections can result in enlarged papillae.
Thrush – It is a condition where the body fights against the bacterial and viral infections. It can cause inflammation of the papillae.
Intake of Toxic Substances – If you consume any toxic substances such as poison, pesticides, or alcohol, then it damages the circumvallate papillae.
Food Allergies – If you have any food allergy and you consume that food then this will cause inflammation and enlargement of the papillae.

Treatment Methods

The inflammation and enlargement of the papillae can be treated with various medical and non-medical methods.
• If the papillae of your tongue have been damaged because of consuming something too hot or spicy, then it can be treated with a topical application of ice or by consuming ice-cream.
• Mint is considered very well in treating the enlargement of papillae, and chew mint leaves can be of great support in this condition.
• The discomfort and irritation can be resolved to a great extent by drinking cold drinks or cold water.
• If the enlargement is because of tonsils or throat infections, then it can be treated by gargling with warm salty water.
• Eating a balanced diet rich in vegetables and fruits is a great way to compensate for vitamin deficiency and treat the problem completely.
• If the inflammation is more, then it can be treated with application of antiviral and antibacterial medicines.
• Regular intake of water keeps the toxins away from the body and reduces the enlargement of papillae on the tongue.
• It is important to maintain good oral hygiene and regular visits to the dentist is an excellent way to reduce the development of the papillae.
• If the irritation is high, then you must gurgle with sesame oil or tea tree oil in order to reduce the various thrush or fungal infections.
• Unexpected biting or injury of the drug can be treated with topical application of glycerin.
• Yogurt or other low-fat dairy products are great to combat the problem of enlarged papillae.
• If you suffer from this problem, then you must not consume spicy and hot foods. Also, it is essential to quit smoking and avoid consuming mouth fresheners.
• Soups prepared with garlic, pepper, and ginger is also great to prevent oral infections and soothe the problem of enlarged papillae.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the relation between the taste buds and papillae?

The papillae are elements on the surface of the tongue and contain taste buds. These taste buds possess sensitive microscopic hairs known as microvilli. The brain receives and sends messages through these tiny hairs for a substance tasting salty, bitter, or sweet.

How does our sense of taste works?

The gustatory or the taste nerve cells are gathered in the taste buds of mouth and throat. When we drink or eat something then it mixes with the saliva and the small bumps on the tongue containing taste buds trigger the taste sense. They send the information to the nerve fibers.

What are the different sorts of taste buds?

Mainly, there are five types of taste sensations, like salty, sweet, umami or savory, bitter, and sour. There are various taste sensations induced by the taste cells situated in the bunch called as taste buds. These taste buds are present in the entire mouth but are mainly concentrated on the tongue surface, which is the main sensory organ of the gustatory system.

What are the color of the healthy tongue and oral mucosa?

The color of the healthy oral mucosa is simply pink and it can become dark depending on the volume of melanin in the epithelium. This is considered the normal color of the mucosa.

Last updated on April 3rd, 2018 at 6:56 am

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