Pain On Your Tongue: Possible Causes And Treatment

Tongue pain: Causes and treatment

Most people often experience pain under or on the sides of your tongue, but the good news is that it’s not usually a cause for concern. While it is important to get a diagnosis to rule out anything serious, most forms of tongue sores are harmless. Often accompanied by loss of taste, swollen tongue, sores, and a change in the tongue’s appearance, almost everybody experiences tongue pain multiple times in their lives. Here are some of the underlying causes of tongue pain.

1. Geographic Tongue

Tongue pain could be the result of having a geographical tongue.

If you notice irregular red patches with a white border on your tongue, then you might be affected by a geographic tongue. Its map-like appearance gives geographic tongue its name. These patches can occur anywhere on the tongue and cause inflammation, pain, and sensitivity. But the good news is that this condition is benign and harmless. Although there are no known causes of geographic tongue, it is reported that the condition is prevalent in individuals affected by psoriasis. A geographic tongue usually has no cure, but there are certain things you can do to reduce the intensity of the pain.1 2

Prevention And Treatment

  • Avoid drinking or eating hot and spicy foods as they can heighten sensitivity.
  • Drink enough water, but avoid consuming aerated drinks.
  • Topical application of aloe vera gel and other anti-inflammatory agents on the tongue is believed to reduce the pain.

2. Oral Thrush

Oral thrush can contribute to tongue pain.

A fungal infection that causes white patches to develop on top of your tongue, oral thrush can cause pain when you eat and drink. It also contributes to loss of taste or leaves an unpleasant taste on your tongue. Smoking, medication (antibiotics), poor oral hygiene, and medical conditions like diabetes are some of the risk factors for oral thrush.3 4

Prevention And Treatment

  • Brush daily, and rinse your mouth after meals to ensure oral hygiene
  • If you wear dentures, clean them every night.
  • Avoid smoking
  • Keep your blood sugar levels in check.
  • Topic application of salt or yogurt might help reduce the symptoms
  • Drink herbal solutions made from essential oils.

3. Canker Sores

Canker sores are common causes of tongue pain.

Small, round, and painful sores that appear on the gums or under the tongue, canker sores affect 1 in every 5 people. Nutrient deficiencies (folic acid, vitamin B12, and iron deficiencies, in specific) are the major cause of canker sores. Sometimes, they’re also a result of mouth injuries. Emotional stress is also a risk factor. Canker sores, however, are harmless and heal within a week or two.5

Prevention And Treatment

  • Use a soft toothbrush and don’t brush roughly
  • Avoid spicy and hot foods
  • Eat a diet high in folic acid, vitamin B12, and iron. This includes foods like lentils, avocado, egg, milk and dairy products, tofu, leafy greens, and tomatoes.
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  • Use a mixture of mixture of half Milk of Magnesia and half Benadryl liquid allergy medicine to rinse your mouth6
  • Topic application of anti-inflammatory agents like honey or aloe vera gel is believed to heal the sores.

4. Food Allergies

Tongue pain could be the result of food allergies.

If you allergic to a certain ingredient in your food, you might experience a swollen tongue that is accompanied by itchiness and pain. Some of the common food allergies include an intolerance toward gluten, lactose, corn, and nuts.7

Prevention And Treatment:

  • Avoid the food that you are allergic to.
  • Consider desensitization to the food by having small amounts of it every day. But, do this only under the supervision of a medical practitioner.


Tongue pain is a side-effect of smoking and is its withdrawal symptom.

Smoking is a common reason for mouth pain. If you smoke regularly, the nicotine present in cigarettes will reduce the blood flow to your mouth, causing painful ulcers. Nicotine also restricts the functioning of your immune system and slows down the healing of ulcers. Interestingly, certain studies note that ulcers are a symptom of tobacco withdrawal. People who have stopped smoking are likely to be affected by ulcers in their first week of going cigarette-free.8 9

Prevention and Treatment

  • Avoid smoking
  • If you plan to cessation medication, opt for patch, nasal spray, or bupropion instead of oral nicotine replacement products.

6. Other Rare Causes

Other rare causes of tongue pain include cancer.

  • Cancer: Some of the symptoms of oral cancer include tongue and throat pain, numbness in the mouth, and appearance of lumps on the mouth. Although your tongue pain is unlikely to be an indication of cancer, it’s important to get the sores and ulcers checked, especially if they’re taking a long time to heal.10
  • Glossodynia: A condition where you experience a burning sensation on your tongue. It can also cause oral thrush and pain.11
  • Glossopharyngeal neuralgia: This condition causes the irritation of the cranial nerves. It can lead to severe pain and electric-shock-like sensation in the throat, tongue, and ear.12

If you’re experiencing mouth sores and tongue pain, do not worry. It’s probably harmless and will heal soon. If the pain is intolerable, consult a doctor to rule out serious conditions like cancer.