A sore tongue is a painful reminder that you're only human. It doesn't matter if you're male or female, rich or poor, action hero or couch potato, chances are you'll be troubled by tongue sores at sometime in your life. Mouth and tongue sores are incredibly common dental problems. And while they're typically just a passing nuisance that makes eating, drinking and speaking uncomfortable, tongue sores are often symptoms of serious health conditions, including tuberculosis and oral cancer.
A Sore Tongue Demands Attention
It's hard to ignore a sore tongue. The amazing group of muscles comprising the tongue is so integral to daily life that any problem -- even medically inconsequential tongue sores -- can make you completely miserable. If mouth and tongue sores are impacting your quality of life, it's only natural to want to determine the cause and find relief as quickly as possible.
Causes of Tongue Sores
In many instances, painful tongue sores are actually canker sores, a dental condition that affects approximately five percent of Americans according to an article published by SimpleSteps. Canker sores are generally small, typically under 1/3 of an inch across. They have white or yellow centers with a red border that shows a clear break between the sore and health tissue.
Appearing singly or in groups of ten or more, canker tongue sores typically heal by themselves within two weeks of appearing. It's not uncommon to experience several outbreaks in a year. Frequent outbursts may indicate a condition called recurrent aphthous ulcerations. This type of ulcer benefits for professional treatment, usually in the form of topical corticosteroids.
Other possible causes of mouth and tongue sores include:
- Allergic reactions to medications (prescription and OTC)
- Bacterial infections
- Behcet's disease, a complex, multisystemic disease rarely seen in the U.S.
- Blood and immune system diseases, including HIV
- Crohn's disease
- Food allergies
- Glossopyrosis, also known as burning mouth syndrome
- Hormonal changes
- Immune system disorders
- Oral cancer
- Oral herpes simplex virus
- Vitamin and mineral deficiencies
- Wegener's granulomatosis, a rare form of vasculitis
Tongue Sores and Oral Cancer
A sore tongue accompanied by ulceration is a classic symptom of oral cancer. Where the sore on tongue appears is important to the diagnosis. Oral cancer rarely develops on the top of the tongue unless the disease occurs in conjunction with untreated syphilis. A persistent sore under tongue or a hard, painless bump that develops on only one side of the tongue are more troubling symptoms that should be examined by a dentist DDS, DMD or oral surgeon as soon as possible.
Tongue Sores Treatment Plan
In many instances, tongue sores will heal by themselves over the course of one or two painful weeks. To reduce discomfort in the meantime, you should consider eating bland foods, rinsing frequently with warm water and applying pain-relieving gels on the sores
Since mouth and tongue sores are closely associated with several life-threatening health conditions, it's important to monitor them closely. See a dental specialist immediately if you're experiencing mouth and tongue sores for the first time. Other warning signs to watch out for include sores that fail to heal within two weeks, sores larger than one centimeter across, an increase in the frequency outbreaks, and sores accompanied by other symptoms, (e.g. rashes, diarrhea, joint pain, fever, etc.).
Worried About Your Sore Tongue?
If you're bothered by persistent mouth and tongue sores, talk to your dentist.