Our tongues do a lot for us. They help us speak and play an important role in digestion, helping us chew and eat our food. The taste buds, found on the small bumps you can see on your tongue (called fungiform papillae) are what allow us to taste the food we eat.
Our tongues are fairly tough, too, and can usually heal quickly from damage and injuries.
Are there times when we should be concerned about tongue pain or appearance?
As a rule of thumb, if ever there’s a time when something about your tongue gives you concern—be it due to pain, persistent sores, lumps or patches of color, give our office a call to have it checked out. While there’s usually nothing to worry about, there are occasionally tongue conditions that may require treatment.
Here’s a brief overview of some different tongue conditions:
Trauma or injuries
It’s fairly easy to accidentally hurt your tongue by biting down on it or drinking or eating something that’s too hot for you. If you clench or grind your teeth, the edges can get caught and damaged, too. While these injuries can be sore for a while, they usually heal quickly.
Ulcers and Canker Sores
A canker sore on the tongue can be really uncomfortable. Fortunately, they usually go away in around a week. Canker sores are not contagious and usually appear as shallow white or yellow sores.
There are different types of glossitis, which are forms of tongue inflammation. Most aren’t serious, though there are a few that require treatment.
• Moeller’s glossitis – This type of implication may cause pain such as a burning sensation or irritation. Because of the atrophy of the papillae, the tongue may look smooth or glossy. Moeller’s glossitis is usually due to a deficiency of vitamin B-12.
• Median rhomboid glossitis – Also known as MRG, the condition is assumed to be the result of a fungal infection. It causes a smooth, flat area on the top of the tongue, toward the middle or back. MRG can cause some pain while eating but can be treated with an anti-fungal medication.
• Geographic Tongue – This type of glossitis results in small patches of smooth areas on that tongue which make it look a bit like a map. While normally harmless, you should consider having one of our dentists check you over if you’ve had it for more than ten days.
Showing up as white patches that look a bit like cottage cheese, oral thrush is a type of yeast infection. It tends to be most common in those with weakened immune systems, babies and older adults who have dentures.
Sensitivity to certain types of food or food allergies can result in tongue pain or inflammation. If you have a scratchy throat, or swollen lips, mouth or tongue after eating some type of food, check with your doctor to find out if you have a food allergy.
Smoking can lead to a number of issues with your tongue, such as pain, or a hard appearance caused by bacteria or yeast growing on your tongue. Of course, there’s also a connection with oral cancer, which can cause pain and lumps on your tongue. Everyone, not just smokers, should be sure to have regular oral cancer exams.
There are many other possibilities, as these are just a few conditions that may affect your tongue. So, if there’s anything about your tongue that’s causing you concern, be sure to ask Dr. Mike or Dr. Dave. You can request an appointment by clicking here.