We are independent & ad-supported. We may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.
Advertiser Disclosure
Our website is an independent, advertising-supported platform. We provide our content free of charge to our readers, and to keep it that way, we rely on revenue generated through advertisements and affiliate partnerships. This means that when you click on certain links on our site and make a purchase, we may earn a commission. Learn more.
How We Make Money
We sustain our operations through affiliate commissions and advertising. If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may receive a commission from the merchant at no additional cost to you. We also display advertisements on our website, which help generate revenue to support our work and keep our content free for readers. Our editorial team operates independently of our advertising and affiliate partnerships to ensure that our content remains unbiased and focused on providing you with the best information and recommendations based on thorough research and honest evaluations. To remain transparent, we’ve provided a list of our current affiliate partners here.

What Are the Different Treatments for Tongue Disorders?

By Marlene Garcia
Updated Mar 03, 2024
Our promise to you
The Health Board is dedicated to creating trustworthy, high-quality content that always prioritizes transparency, integrity, and inclusivity above all else. Our ensure that our content creation and review process includes rigorous fact-checking, evidence-based, and continual updates to ensure accuracy and reliability.

Our Promise to you

Founded in 2002, our company has been a trusted resource for readers seeking informative and engaging content. Our dedication to quality remains unwavering—and will never change. We follow a strict editorial policy, ensuring that our content is authored by highly qualified professionals and edited by subject matter experts. This guarantees that everything we publish is objective, accurate, and trustworthy.

Over the years, we've refined our approach to cover a wide range of topics, providing readers with reliable and practical advice to enhance their knowledge and skills. That's why millions of readers turn to us each year. Join us in celebrating the joy of learning, guided by standards you can trust.

Editorial Standards

At The Health Board, we are committed to creating content that you can trust. Our editorial process is designed to ensure that every piece of content we publish is accurate, reliable, and informative.

Our team of experienced writers and editors follows a strict set of guidelines to ensure the highest quality content. We conduct thorough research, fact-check all information, and rely on credible sources to back up our claims. Our content is reviewed by subject-matter experts to ensure accuracy and clarity.

We believe in transparency and maintain editorial independence from our advertisers. Our team does not receive direct compensation from advertisers, allowing us to create unbiased content that prioritizes your interests.

Most tongue disorders respond to better dental hygiene and diet, but a few require antibiotics or vitamin supplements to treat. Tongue disorders involving tongues that appear discolored are typically considered harmless and can be treated at home by brushing or scraping the tongue. Glossitis, an inflammation producing a swollen tongue marked by pain, might need antifungal or antibiotic medication. Leukoplakia refers to a lump or sore that may indicate a precancerous condition that can be removed via surgery.

Black, hairy tongue, also called furry tongue, might appear after a fever, especially if antibiotics were taken that disrupted the natural bacteria in the mouth. This condition usually appears on the top of the tongue and may cause bad breath and a metallic taste in the mouth. Black tongue disorders can also appear after taking upset stomach medication containing bismuth. Dentists commonly recommend brushing or scraping the tongue to remove the discoloration.

Yellow tongue disorders usually appear before the tongue turns black. These might indicate temporary conditions that disappear on their own. Small projections on the tongue called papillae might swell and change color if bacteria build up. This condition can be treated with a hydrogen peroxide solution, brushing, or adding fiber to the diet to reduce the amount of bacteria in the mouth. In rare cases, yellow tongue might indicate gall bladder or liver problems, which tests can confirm.

Glossitis represents a more serious disorder needing drugs to treat. The tongue might appear smooth, beefy red, and cause pain when eating, talking, or swallowing. If anemia causes the tongue to appear pale, it might indicate a vitamin deficiency. Dentists commonly prescribe an antibiotic or antifungal drug if infection is present. Dietary supplements generally treat anemia. In severe cases of glossitis, swelling might become so pronounced it impedes breathing.

Leukoplakia indicates a precancerous sore usually caused by irritation from rough teeth or ill-fitting dentures. Pipe smokers and tobacco users face a higher risk of developing this disorder, which is more common in older people. Treatment involves removing the lesion and conducting a biopsy to test for oral cancer.

When leukoplakia appears with hairy tongue, it might indicate an immune system disorder. This tongue condition might include white or gray spots that appear fuzzy and raised and which are caused by uneven teeth or fillings. Although usually not harmful, this disorder might show up as a symptom of immune disease.

Geographic tongue disorders are generally harmless and require no treatment. Random patches of bumps, sores, or lumps might pop up on the sides of the tongue or floor of the mouth. They rarely appear on the top of the tongue. These sores may look bright red and cause a burning sensation aggravated by hot foods, beverages, or alcohol. For an unknown reason, geographic tongue is less common in people who smoke.

Painful papillae might appear after consuming foods high in acid, such as orange juice and tomato-based products. Taste buds near the papillae might become irritated by certain foods or from biting the tongue. A mouth rinse often relieves pain from this condition.

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.
Discussion Comments
By discographer — On Jan 30, 2015

I sometimes get what appears to be a canker sore on my tongue. It usually happens in winter and I suspect that vitamin deficiency or a weak immune system may be the cause. When it occurs, I take vitamins and it disappears.

I know however that sores that last more than a few weeks can be a sign of something more dangerous and require a doctor's attention. My tongue sores have never lasted more than a few days though and they don't spread, so I've never worried too much about them.

By SarahGen — On Jan 29, 2015

@bear78-- Well, that depends on what caused it. You are right that it's nothing to worry about. But you can definitely do something about it. For example, if the cause is bismuth containing stomach medication, I recommend switching to another children's medicine without bismuth. I think the chewable tablets usually don't have bismuth.

If the cause is the use of antibiotics, then you can help relieve this issue by giving your child probiotics. Kefir and natural yogurt are wonderful sources. Of course oral hygiene is important too.

By bear78 — On Jan 28, 2015

My nine year old son woke up with a black tongue yesterday morning. It's looking a little bit better today but it's not entirely gone. I'm relieved to know that it's not serious, but is there anything I can do to help? Or should we just wait for his tongue to go back to normal?

The Health Board, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.

The Health Board, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.