1/14/12

Sore Tongue: The Many Causes, and Treatments

A sore tongue can have serious causes, but also benign causes. 
This issue can have people inspecting their mouth for hours every day, frequently obsessing about the possibility of a life threatening disease, testing out this vital mouth muscle by curling it, rolling it, pressing on it, etc. If this describes you, keep reading, as there are numerous causes for your situation.

For this article I consulted with Jordan S. Josephson, MD, Ear, Nose and Throat Specialist at Lenox Hill Hospital in NY, Author of Sinus Relief Now, Director of the New York Nasal and Sinus Center

One cause of a sore tongue is a cut from your teeth, or sharp or hot foods and drinks. This insult will disappear in 2-3 days.

Other causes of a sore tongue, says Dr. Josephson, include infections from bacteria, viruses and fungi (thrush), and,  unfortunately, tumors. A white film on this muscle can be caused by fungus.

“Sinus infection can lead to oral infection with the same bacteria. Apthous stomatitis can cause irritation, pain and ulcers on the tongue.”


Many viruses can inflame this muscle, causing taste buds to swell up, even ulcers to occur. One of these viruses is the herpes strain, which will cause lesions.

Some people chew on their tongue while in deep thought. This can cause discomfort, So can teeth grinding at night, and even TMJ.

The list goes on: nasal obstruction (which changes breathing mechanics, which can then irritate the muscle) and diabetes.

Adds Dr. Josephson, “Tumors, benign and cancerous, can cause sore tongue and need to be diagnosed early because squamous cell carcinoma, if found at a late stage, has a deleterious prognosis and can metastasize. Cancer of the tongue is seen more often in smokers and alcohol drinkers.”


Watch out for coffee and citrus, as these can be irritants. The act of smoking can cause irritation as well. The sucking motion can cause superficial trauma; one more reason to quit this expensive (in more ways than one) habit.

“If your tongue is sore and it does not go away, then you need to see a board certified otolaryngologist  --  head and neck surgeon, as soon as possible to work up the cause and to treat it successfully.  If you bit your tongue and the soreness goes away in a couple of days, then you probably need not worry.”  

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