Healthy Living

What Can Cause A Sore Tongue?

Causes of a Sore Tongue

The tongue can become sore when you accidentally bite your tongue. However, serious medical conditions such as oral cancer can also be indicated by a sore throat. To determine an accurate diagnosis, you must seek medical condition.

Usually, a sore tongue is not a cause of concern but it can be very alarming. The majority of the causes are very small and they go on their own.

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Bites or Injuries

When people accidentally bite their tongue, sometimes they feel a sharp pain. Most commonly, people bite their tongue while chewing since the space in the mouth is shared by the tongue and teeth.

If the teeth clamp shut then the tongue can become injured. Sometimes during contact sports, this may happen. This also happens during a car accident or a fall. Tongue injuries or lacerations also commonly occur in children.

Depending on the age of the child and the severity of the condition, the doctor will decide whether to do surgery or to repair them. Emergency care will be given if there is a deep or large injury or the area is bleeding excessively.


It can be extremely painful to bite down hard on one's tongue. The tongue may burn from eating something very hot. Blisters may develop. The outer edges of the tongue may feel pain when the tongue is clenched or from the grinding of teeth. Trauma can cause an injury that may make the tongue sore. If the injury does not heal fully, the tongue will feel sore and uncomfortable.


On the tongue, enlarged papillae may develop. Sometimes they are referred to as transient lingual papillitis. This can be painful as the taste buds swell. They clear up on their own in a few days, usually. Tongue pain may occur due to oral thrush which is a yeast infection.

In babies and older adults, this is very common especially when the immune system is weak or when a person wears dentures. If you had recently taken antibiotics then you may develop oral thrush. People with asthma who take steroid inhalers are prone to this. Sore tongue may also arise due to other infections such as syphilis and human papillomavirus.

Mouth Ulcers

Around a specific spot, the tongue pain may be focussed. Canker sores or oval ulcers that are whitish, yellowish, reddish or grayish in color can be seen when you open your mouth.

For a number of reasons, these may develop such as when the tongue is damaged due to biting or any reason when you eat a hard or sharp thing. Particular foods may cause this, stress and anxiety may contribute when smoking is stopped and hormonal changes can cause this.

Usually, after a week or two, ulcers generally heal without any treatment. Although certain over-the-counter medications can be taken. Also, avoid foods that may cause irritation of the tongue.

Food Sensitivity

Your tongue may hurt from eating certain foods. If this happens, it may be due to oral allergy syndrome. Usually, certain tree nuts, vegetables, and raw fruits cause this. Some people may experience a sore throat, scratchy throat, itchy mouth, or swelling of lips, tongue, and mouth. In older children, younger adults and teens, oral allergy syndrome is very common. 


Tongue pain may occur when a person smokes or stops smoking. Also, the risk of mouth and throat cancer increases when a person smokes.

Less Common Causes

Burning Mouth Syndrome

Sensation in the tongue may occur due to burning mouth syndrome. In other areas of the mouth, this sensation may arise. You may suddenly or over a period of time feel although you have eaten extremely hot food and have scalded your tongue. Along with this, the person may feel loss or changes in taste, dry mouth, and increased thirst.

Vitamin Deficiency and Anemia

If the body is deficient in iron or vitamin B12, then you may feel a sore tongue. A burning tongue occurs due to low zinc levels. Muscle weakness, dizziness, fatigue, unexplained weight loss, tingling, numbness in hands and feet are other symptoms along with sore throat. Generally, over a period of time, this deficiency occurs. By eating a well-balanced diet, the problem can be resolved. Some may even have to take vitamin injections or supplements.


It causes nerve damage or irritation, and this could be a reason for a sore tongue. It causes intense pain and swallowing triggers the pain further. Usually, people with throat or neck cancer are prone to this. Nerve pain can be eased by medications. In some cases, surgery may help.

Behcet’s Disease

In this condition throughout the body, the blood vessels are inflamed. Rarely, this condition will cause tongue pain.  They can also cause sores. Initially, the sores are round and raised. They may last for 1-3 weeks and they may reoccur. Along with this, other symptoms may also arise such as eye inflammation, issues with the digestive system, genital ulcers, pain in the joints, and acne-like sores.

Lichen Planus

This skin issue is a chronic condition. It causes tongue pain, along with red or white patches while eating or drinking. There may be a burning sensation. This condition may even cause painful red gums. Ongoing treatment will help this condition. 

Typically the arms or legs are affected by this inflammatory skin condition. It causes a sore tongue, mouth sores, itchy and tender mouth. On the cheeks or tongue, shiny red patches will develop.

There are other symptoms such as hair loss, pink, purple, or red color bumps on the skin. Medication may be linked to an allergic reaction, it may also be linked to infection, for instance, hepatitis C. The condition can be treated by taking certain medications. It is also beneficial to do phototherapy.

Moeller’s Glossitis

It causes the tongue to become inflamed. It even causes a burning sensation, pain, and irritation. Since the taste buds have atrophied, the tongue may appear glossy and become smooth. Usually, this condition is linked to the deficiency of nutrition.

Certain Medications

According to some studies, ulcers may arise due to sore tongue that results in taking medications such as beta-blockers or naproxen. The tongue may get irritated by mouthwashes and it may become worn.

Pemphigus Vulgaris

This disorder is a very rare one, it occurs in the mouth and on the genitals, and causes painful sores. In the mouth, these sores may develop into blisters. They may become infected once they have ruptured. The person may experience difficulty with swallowing and eating. Different medications and therapies are included in the treatment.

Sjogren Syndrome

This autoimmune disorder is a rare one. The salivary and lacrimal glands become inflamed. It results in dry mouth and chronic dry eyes. Also, it causes changes in the skin, the pain of joints and other problems. The cause is not yet completely known. Those with dry mouth, the tongue also become dry, fissures, and may give rise to infections and ulcers.

Oral Cancer

This is another cause of a sore tongue although a very rare one. A sore tongue may occur due to multiple reasons. You may want to go to the doctor to see if there is a sore or lump that is painful and does not go away.

Also, this condition makes swallowing painful, chewing becomes painful, loose teeth, bleeding sores, and sores that cannot heal and the skin of mouth lining thickens. In the early stages, oral cancer is not painful. If there is no pain and you feel a lump for a longer period, then it is better to see a doctor.

The mouth is affected by oral cancer. Lumps and ulcers may develop on the lips, tongue, and mouth. Within the tissue, a deep crack may be formed along with the sore. Other symptoms include a strange taste, and swallowing becomes difficult and sores develop in the mouth.

The majority of oral cancers occur due to tobacco use and smoking. Oral cancer also occurs due to poor dental hygiene, consuming alcohol, and human papillomavirus. Cancer can be eliminated by chemotherapy and radiation. The cancerous tumor can be removed by cancer surgery.

Oral Thrush

In the mouth, throat, and the digestive tract, there is fungus Candida present. Overgrowth of this fungus may occur if it is not kept in check. In newborn babies and people whose immune system is weak, this fungal infection is very common.

Oral thrush occurs when fungus overgrows. On the tongue and inside the mouth yellow or white patches may occur. The doctor may prescribe antifungal medications. Usually, after the medication is started it will take about two weeks to heal.

Canker Sores

Most people experience extremely painful canker sores. Medical canker sores are known as aphthous ulcers. It can appear under the tongue, inside the cheeks, and lips. These sores are like spots that are small round and white, they are surrounded by a red border.

The person experiences difficulty with talking or eating. Yet the cause is not completely known. The possible causes may include emotional stress, foods that are spicy, or acidic, physical stress, and changes in the level of hormones.

Canker sores will heal in most cases. To treat canker sores the person can rinse with salt water, take over-the-counter pain medications, or use prescribed mouthwash. It is better to see a doctor if significant pain occurs due to the canker sores or if it occurs more than three times a year.

Cold Sores

The herpes simplex virus also causes cold sores. Unlike canker sores, these are contagious. Through skin to skin contact, they can spread. They appear in the form of blisters that are filled with fluid. Eventually, as they heal a crust is formed.

It is possible to spread the sore even though the person may not have an active cold sore. Usually, on the outside of the mouth, they appear but in some cases, even the tongue is affected. They cause burning sensation, pain, and tingling. Antiviral medications are prescribed by some doctors. The sores become less severe and quickly they go away.


A condition in which the color of the tongue changes and swells is known as glossitis. A sore tongue is one such specific symptom of glossitis. Since the papillae that are finger-like projections are lost hence the tongue may appear smooth.

Also, there is difficulty swallowing, speaking, and chewing. Also, the tongue may become beefy red in color or may become pale. Glossitis can occur due to viral or bacterial infections. Traumas, dry mouth, burns, yeast infections too are some more causes of glossitis.

Also, glossitis occurs when the tongue is exposed to spices, tobacco, or hot foods. Other causes of glossitis are deficiency of iron leading to anemia. Even apthous ulcers can lead to glossitis. Reducing the inflammation is the main aim to treat glossitis.

To reduce the symptoms it is necessary to brush your teeth twice a day, and floss. To manage the condition take antibiotics and antifungal medications. Usually, oral care habits do not cause a sore tongue. However, it is possible to treat the problems early by keep the mouth healthy and noticing any changes in the appearance of the tongue.