RB announces strategic investment in Your.MD to help unlock self-care - Read more

Common Questions - Sore or Painful Tongue

Why does the bottom of my tongue hurt?

Many things can make your tongue hurt. These include biting your tongue or burning it with hot food or drink. A sore tongue may also be caused by conditions like oral thrush, a mouth ulcer, geographic tongue, lichen planus and leukoplakia. These conditions can cause pain in different parts of the tongue.

A type of ulcer, called an aphthous mouth ulcer or canker sore, is a common cause of pain on the underside of the tongue. It is a rounded sore (or sores) that can be caused by many things, including damage to the mouth, stress, and hormonal changes.

A viral infection or a deficiency in iron, vitamin B12 or folate can also make your tongue hurt. If you have tongue pain that will not go away or gets worse or you have white patches on your tongue see a doctor or dentist.

How long does it take for a tongue to heal?

The length of time it will take for a tongue injury to heal usually depends on many factors, such as the cause of the injury and how severe the injury is.

Minor injuries can heal on their own within a week. More serious tongue injuries may take longer to heal. Go to your nearest hospital or see your doctor if you have a severe tongue injury as it may need medical treatment, such as medication or stitches.

See your doctor or dentist if you have tongue pain or an itchy tongue that does not get better or if the pain gets worse. Also see your doctor or dentist if you have white patches on your tongue.

How can I heal a sore tongue fast?

Tongue injuries often heal in their own time. How long it will take to heal may depend on the type and severity of the injury. However, there are self-help techniques you can use to help a sore tongue, including:

  • avoiding hot and spicy food or any food that may irritate your tongue
  • avoiding alcohol
  • not smoking
  • brushing your teeth with a soft toothbrush
  • using a sodium lauryl sulphate-free toothpaste
  • using an antibacterial mouthwash for aphthous ulcers
  • drinking cold drinks through a straw

How can I numb tongue pain?

If your tongue pain is caused by an ulcer, a pain-killing mouthwash, gel or spray that contains a local anaesthetic (a numbing agent) may help to numb your tongue. Speak to your local pharmacist for advice on these numbing treatments.

You should also speak to a pharmacist if your tongue hurts but you don’t have a mouth ulcer. They can help you identify the cause of your tongue pain, recommend anything that may be able to help with the pain, and tell you if you need to see a doctor.

How to get rid of a canker sore on the tongue

A canker sore or aphthous mouth ulcer usually heals within 10 to 14 days. To help with the pain and speed up the recovery process, you can try self-help techniques, including:

  • avoiding spicy, salty or acidic foods
  • avoiding rough, crunchy foods, such as crisps or toast
  • avoiding hot or acidic drinks, such as fruit juice
  • avoiding chewing gum
  • avoiding alcohol
  • eating soft foods
  • brushing your teeth with a soft toothbrush
  • using a sodium lauryl sulphate-free toothpaste
  • using an antibacterial mouthwash
  • drinking cold drinks through a straw
  • eating a healthy balanced diet
  • seeing your dentist for a check-up

Your local pharmacist can advise you on the best treatment for managing pain and healing your canker sore. You can also buy non-prescription treatments that may help to reduce pain and speed up healing. These include antimicrobial mouthwashes that prevent infection, painkilling mouthwashes, gels and sprays, and corticosteroid lozenges.

Why does anaemia cause sore tongue?

If you have anaemia, you may also have a sore tongue. This is because iron, vitamin B12 and folate deficiencies cause anaemia and they also cause conditions that can make your tongue sore.

Low levels of vitamin B12 or iron can cause mouth ulcers, while a deficiency in folate and vitamin B12 can lead to a sore, red tongue (glossitis).

See your doctor if you think you may be suffering from anaemia as early treatment is important.

What does a white-coated tongue mean?

A white-coated tongue can be a sign of a health condition, such as lichen planus, leukoplakia, geographic tongue or oral thrush.

Small round white sores, rather than patches, may be caused by mouth ulcers.

How long does it take for a tongue piercing to heal?

The length of time it takes for a piercing to heal depends on your general health and how well you practise aftercare. A tongue piercing will typically take around 2-4 weeks.

See your doctor immediately if you develop signs of an infection, such as increased tongue pain or tenderness in the area, redness or swelling, or an unusual discharge (green or yellow) around the piercing that has a foul smell.

What do early signs of mouth cancer look like?

Mouth cancer can appear on most parts of the mouth, including the tongue, gums and lips. Less commonly it can develop in the throat.

Some of the most common symptoms of mouth cancer include:

  • red or white patches in the mouth or throat
  • a lump
  • ulcers

Other possible symptoms include:

  • pain in the mouth that does not go away
  • pain or difficulty when swallowing (dysphagia)
  • trouble speaking or changes in your voice
  • unexplained weight loss
  • swollen lymph nodes (glands) in your neck
  • unexplained loosening of a tooth or teeth
  • bleeding or numbness in the mouth
  • difficulty moving your jaw

You should visit your doctor if you have had any of these symptoms for more than three weeks, especially if you are a heavy drinker or smoker.

Content produced by

Important: Our website provides useful information but is not a substitute for medical advice. You should always seek the advice of your doctor when making decisions about your health.

Find our site useful? Try our app

See all our available platforms