A sore tongue can be caused by so many health conditions that it can become quite difficult to pinpoint the exact cause at times. But usually, this condition is caused by some minor factors, like accidental trauma or injury to the tongue, or the development of tongue sores or ulcers. At times, it can be caused by viral and bacterial infections as well.
» A sore or painful tongue is usually caused by a minor trauma or injury like accidental biting, and rubbing of the tongue against a jagged tooth or the edge of an ill-fitting denture. The soreness can also be caused by the consumption of hot food or liquid, spicy food, and citrus fruits. Even vigorous brushing can irritate the tongue and cause the development of sores on it.
» Development of sores can cause tongue pain, especially while eating or swallowing food. Sores that develop on the tongue are usually canker sores or cold sores. Canker sores can develop in response to an injury or trauma to the tongue, nutritional deficiencies, hormonal imbalance, food allergies, and overexposure to chemicals like sodium lauryl sulfate. Canker sores are open blisters. They are usually white or yellow in color, and they remain surrounded by a bright red area.
» Cold sores on the other hand, look like small and red, swollen bumps. They are caused by the herpes simplex virus 1. The bumps can reappear from time to time due to a sudden reactivation of the virus. Fever, stress, hormonal imbalance, and overexposure to sunlight are some factors that can activate the virus responsible for causing cold sores.
» If soreness or pain is accompanied by the development of white patches on the tongue, then it can be a sign of oral thrush. Oral thrush is a fungal infection caused by the overgrowth of the fungus, candida albicans. Oral thrush can give your tongue a cottage cheese-like appearance. Another condition that can cause open sores and white lacy patches in the mouth and the tongue is oral lichen planus. Factors like hepatitis C infection, hepatitis B vaccination, food allergies, and the use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs can trigger this autoimmune condition.
» Burning mouth syndrome is the condition that can also produce a painful or burning sensation in the mouth and the tongue. This condition is more prevalent among women, especially among menopausal women. Apart from these, some other possible causes of a sore tongue are, diseases like anemia and diabetes, vitamin B deficiency (especially vitamin B12 and folic acid deficiency), gastrointestinal problems, smoking, enlarged papillae or taste buds.
Treatment of a Sore Tongue
» The treatment depends on the underlying causes. If the condition is associated with a deficiency of vitamin B, then it can be alleviated by taking vitamin B supplementation. If canker sores are responsible for causing the soreness, then benadryl and milk of magnesia can be used. Benadryl is usually used as an oral rinse to get relief from tongue pain, while milk of magnesia can be applied directly on the sores. If sores appear in clusters and they are quite large and painful, your physician can recommend the use of corticosteroid preparations after evaluating the condition.
» Other medications that are prescribed for mouth ulcers and tongue pain are, anesthetic ointments containing benzocaine, amlexanox, and fluocinonide, carbamide peroxide solution, silver nitrate, and Debacterol.
» If tongue pain is caused by cold sores, the sores and the accompanied pain usually resolve within a few days without any medical intervention. In the meantime, you can get relief from the pain by applying ice and a few other home remedies like aloe vera gel, lemon balm, and chamomile on the sores. If the sores are quite large in size and they do not heal within a few days, your physician may recommend antiviral medications for treating this condition.
» A sore tongue caused by oral thrush can be alleviated with some simple dietary changes and home remedies like yogurt. If you have oral thrush, consider to exclude sugar and simple carbohydrates from your diet, and increase the consumption of unsweetened yogurt, buttermilk, and garlic. Even probiotic supplements are used by many individuals to check the growth of candida albicans in the body. But for treating a severe fungal infection, antifungal medications can be required.
» Apart from these, the following home remedies can help reduce tongue pain and accelerate the healing of the sores:
- Use saline water to gargle your mouth at least twice or thrice a day. To make saline water rinse, add ½ teaspoon salt to a glass of warm water. Now, gargle your mouth thoroughly with this mixture before spitting it out.
- Baking soda is another excellent remedy for a sore tongue, especially if the soreness is caused by canker sores. Make a paste by mixing baking soda and a small amount of water, and apply it on the sores. Keep the paste on the sores for a few minutes, and then rinse your mouth thoroughly with slightly warm water.
- Ice cubes can also help reduce tongue pain. Ice cubes can accelerate the healing of tongue sores, including canker and cold sores, besides numbing the affected area.
- To get rid of tongue sores, apply glycerin on the affected area regularly. Glycerin can soothe the affected area, accelerate the healing of the sores, and reduce the pain to a great extent.
- Mix turmeric powder and milk, and apply the mixture on your tongue. You can also add ½ teaspoon turmeric powder to a cup of milk, and drink it two times a day. Milk and turmeric can help accelerate the healing of the sores.
- Mix alum powder with honey, and apply it on the tongue. Alum powder can be very effective in curing canker sores. To obtain the powder, heat a chunk of alum in a frying pan. This will dehydrate the alum, and enable you to crush it easily to obtain the powder.
- Place a tea bag on the painful sores for a few minutes. Tea bags can soothe the affected area, besides reducing the pain. Herbal teas like chamomile and ginger tea can also heal tongue sores.
- Another excellent remedy for tongue sores is papaya. So, include papayas in your diet along with other nutritious fruits. A diet that contains vitamin C- and B-rich foods can help alleviate and prevent the development of tongue sores. Guavas, strawberries, melons, and citrus fruits are good sources of vitamin C, while whole grains, potatoes, bananas, meat, and fish are some important dietary sources of vitamin B.
- Quit smoking and limit the consumption of alcohol. Drink plenty of water, at least 8 to 10 glasses of water throughout the day.
- Avoid or limit the consumption of spicy and hot food or liquid, as well as highly acidic and salty food until the sores heal completely. Use a soft bristle brush for brushing your teeth, so that the sores or the painful areas of the tongue do not get irritated. Try to reduce the use of sodium lauryl sulfate that can be found in many toothpastes.
Tongue soreness usually resolves within a few days with proper care. But if this condition does not subside within a few days, consider to get it properly evaluated with the help of a physician, as it can be a sign of some underlying health problem. If you develop a lump or sore on one side of the tongue along with soreness, and the lump does not go away within a week or so, then get the condition evaluated by an experienced physician as soon as possible.
Disclaimer: This article is for informative purposes only, and should not be treated as a substitute for professional medical advice.