The tongue is an important muscular organ. We use it for speaking, eating and swallowing. If you have a sore tongue it is unlikely to be something to worry about, usually it will be a minor problem that is easy to fix. Here we look at some possible causes of a painful tongue.
- Oral thrush – Candida is a fungus present in the mouth and throat. If this overgrows it can cause a fungal infection. This is most common in newborns and people with low immune systems. Oral thrush causes painful white or yellow patches to form in the mouth and on the tongue. Antifungal medications can treat this.
- Biting or injuring your tongue – Accidentally biting your tongue when eating is very unpleasant and can cause a sharp pain. You can also injure your tongue by having it clamped down upon by your teeth in a fall or accident. Some illnesses that cause seizures may also lead to your tongue being bitten. It will usually take a few days and sometimes a week for your tongue to heal from this kind of injury. Gargling with warm salt water can help.
- Sores – Ulcers and cold sores are common and very irritating. These sores can be caused by a number of things such as stress, hormonal changes, spicy foods, or being run down with a cold or virus. Cold sores are a form of the herpes virus and can be very contagious.
- Glossitis – There are a number of types of Glossitis, almost all of which cause a painful tongue. Glossitis means inflammation of the tongue and treatment can vary depending on the person and the cause.
- Burning mouth syndrome – This is a painful condition that causes a burning, tingling or numb sensation on the tongue. The mouth will not show physical symptoms, but the pain can last a long time. It is thought burning mouth syndrome could be caused by allergic reactions, acid reflux, thyroid issues, dry mouth and diabetes. Treatment depends on the medical history of the individual.
Some of these issues are unavoidable, but practicing good oral hygiene is very important. Brushing and flossing your teeth and seeing your dentist regularly can go a long way.
If your symptoms have been persistent despite adhering to good oral hygiene, it would be worth consulting with your GP for a detailed examination. You may need some blood tests to rule out any vitamin deficiencies, and possibly also a specialist referral in some cases.