All About Sore
Tongue Pain Relief

A Sore Tongue can be really annoying and sometimes very painful - And I know from personal experience! I accidently bit the side of my tongue quite badly a few years ago, and I STILL have a small swollen area and occasional tongue pain in that area.

At the time, I had a really sore tongue for about a week. Although I am a dentist myself, I was worried enough to go see a specialist about it! Fortunately I didn't need any treatment, but the specialist was impressed with my attempt to chew a piece out of my tongue. Definitely NOT recommended.

Enough of me. A sore tongue can have MANY possible causes, and biting your tongue is just one of them! Here's a list of EIGHT possibilities, with the most common causes coming up first:

Sore Tongue

  • Simple small ulcer. This is a tiny ulcer, almost too small to see, but very tender. If it's on the tip of your tongue it can be impossible to avoid, and you feel like you're catching it on every tooth all the time. This type of simple small ulcer usually heals on its own without any treatment in a few days.
  • Large aphthous ulcers. This is a bigger ulcer, maybe up to a centimeter across. It looks HUGE, and can look a little scary. It commonly occurs on the side of your tongue.

This is very painful, as it rubs on the molars every minute of every hour! It can also look pretty nasty. This should settle down within 5 to 7 days. If you don't see any signs of it healing in that time, get a dentist to take a look. There's no specific treatment.

  • Trauma - There are many causes of trauma. The most common is probably a sharp tooth cusp. It's pretty obvious what the cause is, as the sore bit sits right next to the sharp tooth.

Get your dentist to check it, and he'll probably polish down the sharp edge a bit.

- A sharp denture edge is very similar to a sharp tooth cusp. Get the denture smoothed down.

- A bitten tongue most often leaves a cut in your tongue. Although it's very painful at the time, it will heal up quickly and leave no traces afterwards.

- A haemangioma from biting is what I've got! Basically you burst a couple of small capillaries inside the tongue, so it swells up a bit in the spot, goes blue, and then heals in that shape, with bigger blood capillaries there too.

You can tend to bite it again after a while because it sticks out a bit from the rest of your tongue. Sometimes a specialist will recommend an injection to shrink the swelling down.

- Burns from hot drinks; if you scald your tongue with a hot drink, chances are that your palate and lips will be even worse off. Get a dentist to look at it. This usually heals on it's own, but you'll be eating only ice-cream for a week!

  • Aspirin burn. If you have a small ulcer on your tongue, or you nipped your tongue when eating, it can be tempting to place an aspirin tablet right next to the sore bit.

This can cause an aspirin burn. The aspirin can cause a chemical burn on the gum or tongue, leaving a large, nasty-looking ulcer. The best advice is NOT to place an aspirin tablet directly on the gum! If you already have an aspirin burn, just leave it alone. Time will heal it.

  • Allergies. You can get a sore tongue from an allergic reaction to a new toothpaste or any foodstuff, for example. It will be fairly obvious that you only get tongue pain after eating the specific food, so tracking down the cause doesn't take too long.

You can help a sore tongue by avoiding anything that might irritate it; some recent research points to a common ingredient in almost all toothpastes - sodium lauryl sulfate - as an irritating agent. This is basically a type of soap, and causes your toothpaste to froth up so that it "feels more effective". 

The BEST toothpaste that does NOT contain Sodium Lauryl Sulfate is from TheraBreath. I strongly recommend the standard TheraBreath toothpaste!

BUT you have to use the TheraBreath mouthwash too, after brushing, for the best results! I really like TheraBreath products. Have a look at the TheraBreath Oral Rinse.

  • Tongue infections. This usually affects folks with dentures, and causes red and sore lips at the corners of the mouth. It can also affect the tongue. Your dentist can check it, and prescribe an anti-fungal gel or lozenge, or sometimes tablets to swallow to deal with the infection.
  • Cancer of the tongue. This is the one we don't want to talk about. If you notice any swelling or any ulcer that doesn't obviously start to improve within a few days, get it checked.

It has been proved over and over again, without any shadow of a doubt, that the sooner you get a cancer diagnosed, the quicker and simpler the treatment is. And more successful.

These are the most common reasons for getting a sore tongue, and the usual treatments. There are other causes of tongue pain, but these tend to be quite rare. As always, if you have ANY doubts at all, get it checked by a doctor or dentist. NOW. DON'T put it off 'til next week!

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Page written by dentist Dr. Richard Mitchell

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