Tongue Problems

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Tongue basics

The tongue is a mobile group of muscles that is attached to the floor of the mouth. The top of the tongue is covered with small bumps called papillae. The majority of our tastes buds sit on these papillae.

The tongue is used for tasting, swallowing, and chewing food. The tongue is also used to form words for speaking. A tongue that is pink and moist with a thin white coating on the surface is considered healthy. As many of us have experienced, a tongue injury (such as when we accidentally bite our tongue) can be quite bothersome since the tongue is such an instrumental part of our daily lives through eating and speaking. Though very few people know it, the tongue is actually a very good measure of the well-being of the body. This is why your doctor may use the tongue depressor to look in your mouth and tongue during an examination.

What are common tongue problems?

Some common problems associated with the tongue include discoloration, increased size, abnormalities of the surface, growths (bumps), pain, taste concerns, and difficulty with movement.

What causes tongue problems?

There are a variety of causes of tongue problems, ranging from harmless to serious. Individuals can be born with a tongue condition that is harmless. A more serious condition such as tongue cancer can be related to risk factors such as smoking and drinking alcohol. Additionally, a tongue problem may be a result of an underlying medical condition.

What are the risk factors for tongue problems?

Depending on the tongue problem, risk factors may include tobacco use, drinking alcohol, poor oral hygiene, viral infections, a weak immune system, and even stress.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 10/21/2014

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Tongue Problems - Treatments Question: What treatment did you receive for your tongue problem?
Tongue Problems - Infants and Children Question: What kind of tongue problem does your infant or young child suffer from?
Tongue Problems - Hairy Tongue Question: Were you diagnosed with hairy tongue? What was the cause?
Tongue Problems - Oral Cancer Question: Have you been diagnosed with oral cancer on your tongue? How are you coping?
Tongue Problems - Leukoplakia Question: Do you have leukoplakia? How did you get rid of it?

Sumptoms of Tongue Problems

Other conditions and symptoms that may be associated with a sore tongue include the following:

  • Dehydration
  • Dry Mouth
  • Fever or Thrush (Candida infection of the mouth).

Some patients may experience the following related sore tongue symptoms and signs:

  • Swollen Tongue
  • Loss of Taste
  • Sore Throat