What Causes a Sore Tongue?

Sore or painful mouth

A sore tongue, also known as a sore or painful mouth or tongue, can be caused by various factors, including:

  • Oral Ulcers: Canker sores (aphthous ulcers) are shallow, painful sores that can develop on the tongue or inside the mouth. They are typically round or oval with a white or yellow center and a red border.
  • Infections: Viral or bacterial infections, such as oral herpes (cold sores), oral thrush (a yeast infection), or hand, foot, and mouth disease, can lead to a sore tongue.
  • Irritation or Trauma: Physical irritation from factors like biting your tongue, wearing ill-fitting dentures, or consuming hot or spicy foods can cause temporary soreness.
  • Allergies: Allergic reactions to certain foods, medications, or oral care products can result in a sore tongue.
  • Tongue Burn: Accidentally burning your tongue by consuming hot food or beverages can cause soreness and discomfort.
  • Chemical Irritation: Exposure to irritating substances, such as certain mouthwashes or toothpaste ingredients, can lead to a sore tongue.
  • Nutritional Deficiencies: Deficiencies in essential nutrients like vitamin B12, iron, or folic acid can result in oral symptoms, including a sore tongue.
  • Medication Side Effects: Some medications can cause oral side effects, including a sore tongue. These may include certain antibiotics, antipsychotic drugs, or blood pressure medications.
  • Oral Conditions: Certain oral conditions, such as oral lichen planus or geographic tongue, can cause discomfort and soreness on the tongue.
  • Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD): Acid reflux can lead to stomach acid entering the mouth, which can irritate the tongue and other oral tissues.
  • Autoimmune Conditions: Conditions like Behcet’s disease or systemic lupus erythematosus can cause recurrent mouth ulcers and soreness in the mouth and on the tongue.
  • Smoking or Tobacco Use: Smoking or using tobacco products can irritate the tongue and oral tissues, potentially causing soreness.
  • Stress: Psychological stress can sometimes manifest as oral symptoms, including a sore tongue.
  • Inflammatory Conditions: Inflammatory conditions like glossitis (inflammation of the tongue) can lead to tongue soreness and discomfort.
  • Hormonal Changes: Hormonal changes, such as those occurring during pregnancy or menopause, can affect oral tissues and lead to soreness.

If you have a persistently sore tongue or are experiencing other concerning symptoms, it’s advisable to consult with a healthcare provider or dentist. They can examine your mouth and tongue, take a detailed medical history, and recommend appropriate treatment or management based on the underlying cause. In some cases, treatment may involve addressing the root cause, while in others, symptom relief and oral care measures may be recommended.