By dentist Dr. Richard Mitchell
There are basically three types of tongue infections:
Because these tongue infections have different causes, they will look and feel different to one another, and of course the treatment for each will be different to the others.
Viral infections: The symptoms of a herpes infection of the tongue can vary, depending on how severe the infection is. The signs of a virus infection can range from small white spots (which are tiny blisters filled with highly infectious fluid) and a mild tingling, to painful larger blisters around the tongue. Left alone, the infection will heal up, but can be very painful. It's better to seek some treatment from your dentist.
Treatment of a herpes infection.
Herpes infections on the tongue can be treated with anti-viral drugs such as Acyclovir or Flamciclovir. These should help to bring the infection under control, and speed up healing.
Fungal infections are usually caused by "Candida Albicans". This bug is normally present in the mouth, but at very low levels. During times of stress or a weakened immune system, the Candida gets a chance to spread and frequently sets up home on the tongue or cheeks.
How can you tell if it's Candida?
Take a look at your tongue. Can you see white patches on it? If yes, then try to wipe the white patch off the tongue with a piece of cotton gauze or cotton cloth. With a Candida infection, you will be able to wipe the white patch off, leaving a red area underneath.
What's the treatment?
Normal antibiotics are useless, because this infection is not caused by a bacteria. This is a fungal infection, and so needs to be treated with an anti-fungal medicine. There are several available, and in different forms.
There are Nystatin lozenges to suck, or as a gel to apply directly to the area, or else Fluconazol or Nizoral tablets that you swallow that treat your whole body, as well as your tongue.
This systemic treatment is especially useful for full denture wearers, but it is important to clear the denture of Candida as well, otherwise it can act as a reservoir and cause re-infection.
People who are diabetic or wear dentures tend to be at higher risk of fungal infections. Young children and senior citizens also tend to be more frequently affected, due to immune systems that are not at full strength.
Bacterial infections can result from tongue piercing. It has been shown that metal studs, especially stainless steel, collect more bacteria than titanium or plastic studs. This build-up of bacteria on the stud can lead to a painful infection of the piercing.
Because this is a true bacterial infection, conventional antibiotics such as amoxycillin should work well. The cause of the infection - the stud - should be removed, cleaned in an ultrasonic bath and then sterilized in a vacuum autoclave.
All tongue infections can be helped by using the TheraBreath Plus Oral Rinse, a very effective oxygen-releasing mouthwash. The oxygen helps to kill any bacteria.
But don't use any toothpaste containing Sodium Lauryl Sulfate, as this can inactivate the oxygen, as well as being an irritant itself.
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 in general are not life-threatening, but can be uncomfortable at one extreme to very painful at the other extreme. There are other infections that can occur, but these 3 listed above are the most common.