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Sore Tongue

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Tongue sores are common oral problems that could have several causes. Read below to understand the causes.

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Sneha Kannan

Published At May 31, 2022
Reviewed AtDecember 11, 2022


Experiencing sores on the surfaces of the tongue is not a very uncommon occurrence. Each human being might have experienced tongue sores at least once in their lifetime. The causes of tongue sores need not be severe or complex. However, the persistent and recurrent occurrence of tongue sores must be brought to the dentist's attention to treat the condition and its underlying causes. Read the following article to know more about tongue sores.

What Are Tongue Sores?

A sore in the tongue can occur on any of its surfaces, like the sides of the tongue, under the tongue (soft mucosal region), or on the top of the tongue. Wherever the region is, tongue sores can be excruciating as it causes difficulty in swallowing, chewing food, or talking. The causes could be as simple as stress or certain deficiencies. It rarely is due to cancer. However, proper care and diagnosis are required to control the sores and resolve the causes.

What Are the Common Causes of Tongue Sores and Its Treatment?

The common causes of tongue sores are,

1. Trauma:

One of the common straightforward causes of a sore tongue could be trauma, just like how a brutal hit or fall needs time to heal, a hard bite on your tongue while chewing your food or drinking scorching beverages can hurt your tongue and might take a few days to heal completely. The healing time depends upon the severity of the harm caused.

2. Inflammation of the Taste Buds:

Another common cause of sore tongue could be the inflammation of the taste buds. The upper surface of our tongue is filled with small papillary projections called taste buds. These buds are responsible for the perception of different tastes. When these taste buds inflame, they could cause pain. This condition is characterized by small white or red bumps called transient lingual papillitis. This condition usually resolves by itself in a few days or weeks.

3. Infection:

A fungus called Candida albicans causes candidiasis. This fungal infection is characterized by forming a thick, velvety whitish layer over the tongue. When scraped, it causes bleeding and discomfort. This infection is prevalent among immunocompromised older adults and infants. A few other infectious conditions that contribute to the sore tongue are as follows:

4. Mouth Ulcers:

Mouth ulcers are a common problem faced by people of all ages and genders. A painful ulcerated spot that appears red, white, yellow, or gray can be spotted at any location in the oral cavity. This ulcer is called a canker sore. It is widespread in the tongue, floor of the mouth, inner layers of the cheeks, or on the surfaces of the gums. There are several known reasons for the occurrence of canker sores. Some of the common reasons could be,

  • Biting of the cheeks (could be accidental or could be due to cheek biting habits).

  • Hitting the gums while brushing carelessly.

  • Eating complex substances that probably irritate the mouth while chewing.

  • Extreme stress.

  • Anxiety.

  • Hormonal changes.

These ulcers usually heal by themselves without any treatment in a week or so. However, if the underlying cause is known to be mental stress or hormonal imbalances, then the causes must be ceased to help recover and prevent the recurrence of these sores. Certain over-the-counter ointments can help.

5. Allergies or Hypersensitivity Reactions:

Have you ever felt like your tongue and throat were itchy after eating a particular fruit or vegetable? Or have you ever seen a person who experiences swelling and pain of the lips and face after eating something? If yes, this reaction is probably due to their sensitivity to the substance they just ate. This condition is called a pollen-food syndrome. When a person is allergic to a specific type of fruit, vegetable, or nut, and when he unknowingly consumes it, he might develop allergic reactions like itchy throat, itchy tongue, swelling of the lips and face, etc. However, the signs and symptoms of this allergy reaction might vary from person to person, depending upon the severity.

6. Smoking:

Long-term smoking can cause severe effects like cancers of the mouth and throat. However, sometimes, when a person ceases the smoking habit suddenly, they might experience tongue pain or tongue sores. No, not everyone shares these side effects. This side effect usually resolves in a few days or a few weeks.

7. Deficiencies:

Certain deficiencies like iron deficiency anemia and vitamin B-12 deficiency are prevalent, and they show specific symptoms, among which is a tongue sore. A person with vitamin B-12, iron, or folate deficiency can experience the following symptoms,

  • Smooth tongue (painful).

  • A tongue that appears beefy red.

  • Burning sensation of the tongue.

Other symptoms include:

  • Fatigue.

  • Palpitation or irregular heartbeats.

  • Breathlessness on mild exertion.

  • Weight loss without trying.

  • Hair loss.

  • Pale skin.

  • The tingling sensation of the hands and feet.

If a person experiences a sore tongue due to deficiencies, the deficiency must first be treated to subside the symptoms. Then, the doctor can prescribe a rich diet filled with nutrients and nutritional supplements to treat the deficiency.

8. Medications:

Certain medications can cause side effects like a sore tongue. For example, pills like NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) can cause sore tongues in certain people. If this happens, consult your doctor. A change of dosage or the drug itself can resolve the issue of sore tongue in a few days.

9. Cancer:

Not all cases of sore tongue denote cancer. Cancer is the last suspect when a person experiences a sore tongue. A doctor might suspect cancer under the following conditions,

  • Persistent, recurrent sores that do not go away after treatments.

  • Thickening of the skin in and around the mouth.

  • Bleeding lesions.

  • Feeling of lump in the throat.

  • Inability to chew.

  • Inability to swallow.

  • Unexplained weight loss.


Some of the most common causes of tongue sores are discussed above. If you experience a sore tongue, take care of yourself with soothing food and comfort drinks that do not irritate the sore until it heals. Make sure to rule out deficiencies if you often experience tongue sores or ulcers. Get enough rest and sleep to prevent getting canker sores. In case you or your loved ones suffer from recurrent tongue sores that do not go away for weeks or worsen, consult a doctor immediately. For further details, you can consider consulting a doctor from our site on icliniq.com

Frequently Asked Questions


What Can a Sore Tongue Be a Symptom Of?

A sore tongue can occasionally be a sign of iron deficiency anemia, folate deficiency, or vitamin B12 deficiency, all of which are vitamin deficiencies. Glossodynia, often known as "burning mouth syndrome," is a burning sensation on the tongue's tip that can also cause a sore tongue.


How Do You Treat a Sore Tongue?

A sore tongue can be treated using the following:
Antibiotics, as infections with bacteria, including syphilis, can cause mouth sores. Even if one feels better, one should make sure they finish the entire course of antibiotics.
Antifungals as oral yeast infections are treated with antifungals such as Fluconazole and Clotrimazole.
Antimicrobial mouthwash or a prescription mouthwash can help prevent infection while a sore tongue recovers.
Steroids can be used to treat mouth sores or other inflammatory conditions like lichen planus.
Vitamin supplements can assist in curing a vitamin deficiency. One may need a prescription vitamin supplement, such as an injection of B-12, folic acid, or iron.
The topical gel can help by numbing the area and reducing mouth discomfort. 
Over-the-counter painkillers help lessen the discomfort associated with tongue soreness. Ibuprofen and other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications can help with edema reduction. 
Apart from these:  
Maintaining proper oral hygiene. Keeping the mouth clean may aid in the recovery of a sore tongue.
Using cool chamomile tea to rinse the mouth can also reduce the burning sensation.
Honey can be used to treat wounds.
Avoiding smoking and being watchful of the food and drinks one is consuming can also help


Should an Individual Be Worried if Their Sore Tongue Hurts?

The muscular tongue is a vital part of the mouth for speaking, swallowing, and eating. Although it can be scary, a swollen or painful tongue is typically nothing to worry about. The majority of painful tongue cases are simple issues that get better on their own or only require minor treatment.


Can the Sore Tongue Indicate Health Problems?

The symptom of various medical disorders, such as diabetes and anemia, might be a sore tongue. Even while the majority of sore tongues are not anything to be concerned about, one should see a doctor if the sore or lump does not go away in a week or two.


Can the Teeth Cause a Sore Tongue?

The agony of biting down firmly on the tongue can be excruciating. Our tongue may become blistered and burnt if we consume something extremely hot. The tongue's outer margins might hurt if individuals grind or clench their teeth.


When Should an Individual See a Doctor for a Sore Tongue?

Visit a doctor or dentist if individuals detect tongue changes (such as color changes, presence of lumps, or sores) that persist for longer than two weeks. If a person also has a fever or a rash accompanied by a sore tongue, consult a physician first.


What Does the Sore Tongue Say About Our Liver?

Patients with chronic liver illness appear to have a higher prevalence of oral symptoms like ulcers, lichen planus, xerostomia, erosion, and abnormalities of the tongue. If the corners of the tongue seem swollen, one may need to review their diet, cut back on alcohol intake, or look into stress management techniques. The liver's condition may be impacted by each of these elements.


Are Sores on the Tongue Normal?

Tongue sores are relatively non-harmful conditions that can hurt and make an individual uncomfortable, but they usually get better on their own. For symptom relief, people can try topical treatments or over-the-counter drugs. An underlying condition may be indicated by recurrent sores on the side of the tongue.


Should an Individual Be Worried About Sores on Their Tongue?

If someone has sores that do not resolve after 1 to 2 weeks, they should consult a doctor or dentist, especially if they are present on the tongue's side and they are persistent sores.


How Long Do Tongue Sores Last?

If nothing is done, mouth sores often heal in 10 to 14 days. They occasionally last for six weeks. One may feel better by taking actions such as steering clear of hot drinks and food, salty and spicy cuisine, and citrus fruits.


Which Vitamin Deficiency Causes Tongue Sores?

Our body produces abnormally big red blood cells that are dysfunctional when vitamin B12 deficiency is present. Mouth ulcers are one of the prominent signs of vitamin B12 deficiency, which is usually associated with anemia.
Dr. Sameera Ashiqa. S
Dr. Sameera Ashiqa. S



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