Tongue Problems

  • Medical Author:
    Donna S. Bautista, DDS

    Dr. Donna S. Bautista, DDS, completed her undergraduate studies at the University of California, San Diego with a bachelor of arts in biochemistry and cell biology. During her time at UC San Diego, she was involved in basic research including studying processes related to DNA transcription in the field of molecular biology. Upon graduation, she went on to attend dental school at the University of California, San Francisco. In addition to her formal dental training, she provided dental care for underserved communities in the Bay Area through clinics and health fairs. She also worked toward mentoring high school students interested in the field of dentistry.

  • Medical Editor: William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

View Cosmetic Dentistry: Before and After Slideshow Pictures

Quick GuideDental Health Pictures Slideshow: Top Problems in Your Mouth

Dental Health Pictures Slideshow: Top Problems in Your Mouth

Is it possible to prevent tongue problems?

Some tongue problems are preventable by practicing good oral hygiene and eating a healthy, nutritious diet while some tongue conditions cannot be prevented at all but symptoms can be managed with treatment. Other tongue problems are the byproduct of an underlying medical condition that needs to be addressed. Once addressed, the tongue problem generally resolves.

Exercising moderation or altogether quitting the habit of smoking and drinking alcohol will decrease the risk of developing oral cancer. A vaccine for HPV is being studied, and it may help in guarding against oral cancers, as well. Oral cancer screenings should always take place during routine dental visits. Screenings can also take place with an ear, nose, and throat (ENT) physician.

What is the prognosis for tongue problems?

Fortunately, most tongue problems are benign and treatable. Therefore, the prognosis is generally very good.

In regard to growths on the tongue, the main concern is oral cancer. Early detection and treatment usually provides the best chance for recovery and survival. The prognosis for oral cancer is dependent upon the stage of the cancer, the location of the tumor, and whether the cancer has spread to blood vessels. Frequent follow-up and close monitoring are crucial parts of care. Unfortunately, the overall prognosis for oral cancer is generally poor. In the U.S., approximately half of individuals newly diagnosed with oral cancer do not survive after more than five years. Despite advances in treatment with surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy, the poor prognosis is due to the cancer being discovered at a later stage in its development.

When treating tongue cancer with surgery, the patient may experience the complication of numbness of the tongue. The numbness may or may not resolve. Radiation and chemotherapy treatment may also cause decreased saliva flow and changes in taste that may take time to improve or not improve at all.

REFERENCES:

Majorana, Alessandra, et al. "Oral mucosal lesions in children from 0 to 12 years old: ten years' experience." Oral Surg Oral Med Oral Pathol Oral Radiol Endod (2010).

Reamy, Brian, et al. "Common Tongue Conditions in Primary Care." American Family Physician (2010): 627-634.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 12/18/2015
VIEW PATIENT COMMENTS
  • Tongue Problems - Describe Your Problems

    Please describe your tongue problems.

    Post View 97 Comments
  • Tongue Problems - Treatments

    What treatment did you receive for your tongue problem?

    Post View 7 Comments
  • Tongue Problems - Infants and Children

    What kind of tongue problem does your infant or young child suffer from?

    Post View 2 Comments
  • Tongue Problems - Hairy Tongue

    Were you diagnosed with hairy tongue? What was the cause?

    Post View 1 Comment
  • Tongue Problems - Oral Cancer

    Have you been diagnosed with oral cancer on your tongue? How are you coping?

    Post View 1 Comment
  • Tongue Problems - Leukoplakia

    Do you have leukoplakia? How did you get rid of it?

    Post View 1 Comment

Health Solutions From Our Sponsors