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What are Some Causes of a Sore Tongue?

Malcolm Tatum
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Just about everyone has experienced a sore tongue at one time or another. In many instances, a sore or sensitive tongue is a symptom of a health ailment that can be easily cured. However, a tongue that is sore and sensitive to heat and cold may also be a sign of something more involved. Here are a few of the causes for sore tongue and what you can do about them.

The most innocuous reason for tongue pain is very simple and very common. Accidentally biting the tongue is extremely painful, both at the time the tongue is actually bitten and for some time afterward. As the tongue heals, the soreness will begin to subside. Using an oral rinse to keep the mouth clean will help facilitate the healing process.

Smoking can cause a great many health issues, including the development of a sore tongue. Over time, smoking will make the tongue more sensitive and thus make it easier to be negatively impacted by hot and cold beverages or register a heightened response to any type of oral disease. Choosing to stop smoking will help to reverse the sensitivity and soreness as well as be good for the rest of the body.

Various types of gum disease may lead to a tongue that is inflamed and sore. Gingivitis is one example. The presence of a canker sore or tongue tumor may also develop due to poor oral health. Often, these conditions will require treatment with antibiotics and testing to ensure that the tumor is not malignant in order to correct the core problem. From that point forward, engaging in a consistent regimen of proper dental care will help to minimize the chances of a recurring situation.

Not every cause of soreness in the tongue is found in the mouth. Ailments that compromise other organs in the body can indirectly lead to problems with the tongue. Angina can cause pains all over the body, including the tongue. Emotional imbalances such as depression and anxiety can trigger aches and pains throughout the body, with the tongue possibly becoming dry and sensitive. This type of referred pain is not uncommon at all, and will usually disappear as the originating ailment is diagnosed and treatment begins.

While a sore tongue may or may not be a sign of something serious, it is always a good idea to see a dentist when there is no apparent cause for the soreness. Developing and maintaining good dental health habits will go a long way toward preventing some of the causes, as well as making it easier to diagnose some of the more serious reasons for the soreness.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Malcolm Tatum
By Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum, a former teleconferencing industry professional, followed his passion for trivia, research, and writing to become a full-time freelance writer. He has contributed articles to a variety of print and online publications, including The Health Board, and his work has also been featured in poetry collections, devotional anthologies, and newspapers. When not writing, Malcolm enjoys collecting vinyl records, following minor league baseball, and cycling.
Discussion Comments
By anon340068 — On Jun 29, 2013

This started a month ago. It felt like I burned my tongue, but I didn't. If I eat salty food, it burns, and now everything tastes spicier/hotter than usual (like ketchup). It doesn't seem to be getting any better. the side of my tongue seems to touch my teeth a little now, so there must have been some swelling. Any ideas what this could mean?

By WaterHopper — On Jul 20, 2010

@momothree: I’m not sure about Tylenol or Ibuprofen relieving the pain, but I know that gargling with Benadryl elixir helps a lot. You can also get topical viscous lidocaine for temporary relief.

By momothree — On Jul 20, 2010

@waterhopper: Does Tylenol or Ibuprofen relieve the pain from glossodynia?

By WaterHopper — On Jul 20, 2010

There is a condition called glossodynia which basically means a painful, burning tongue. Most cases are idiopathic and there are typically no findings on exam unless an injury or burn has occurred. A workup is usually needed to rule out organic disease especially if there are lesions on the tongue.

Some underlying causes of glossydynia are diabetes, nutritional deficiencies such as iron and zinc, and vascular thrombosis.

As long as there are no physical abnormalities found, glossodynia is not serious. Good oral hygiene and good nutrition will clear it up.

By arunil — On Jul 09, 2009

I get swollen tastebuds from time to time, and they are very annoying and painful. I have no idea what causes them, but I understand that they may be a reaction to some foods. There doesn't seem to be much of anything that can be done about them.

Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum, a former teleconferencing industry professional, followed his passion for trivia, research, and writing...
Learn more
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