Sore or White Tongue? Know the Causes & Treatment

Published on: November 21, 2019 By: Urbandale Smiles Posted in: Oral Health

Know the causes and treatment for sore tongue and other tongue problem

The condition of your tongue tells about your overall health. White patches, bumps on your tongue, or soreness can be harmless but may indicate an underlying health problem. Several problems can affect your tongue including:

  • Texture changes
  • Pain
  • Color changes
  • Swelling
  • Sores
  • Taste changes

These problems are not serious, but symptoms might occur due to an underlying condition that requires medical treatment.

What Is a White Tongue?

White tongue or sore tongue is when white patches appear on the tongue. These patches usually occur after an illness or due to the use of certain medications. It indicates that your immune system is attacking your mouth’s tissues. If white patches cannot be scraped away, it may be a sign of leukoplakia.

What Causes a White Tongue?

Possible causes of a white or sore tongue include:

  1. Oral Thrush

    Oral thrush is a fungal infection that may cause the tongue to appear white. The white patches on the tongue can cause swelling, soreness, difficulty in eating or drinking, and loss of taste. The elderly, newborns, and people with a weakened immune system or wear poorly fitting dentures are more likely to develop oral thrush.

  2. Oral Lichen Planus

    It is an inflammatory condition that affects mucous membranes inside your mouth and causes thick, white patches inside the mouth and on the tongue. These white patches may cause burning sensation and pain but will disappear on its own. 

  3. Leukoplakia 

    Leukoplakia can be caused by tobacco and alcohol usage, inflammatory conditions, or irritation from dentures. It causes thick white patches on the tongue and inside the mouth. These white patches are harmless but rarely may develop serious complications. 

Related ReadDentures: All that You Ever Wanted to Know About

Treatments for White Tongue  

Treatment varies depending on the cause of a white tongue, which may include:

  • Oral thrush is treated with antifungal medications, usually in gel form. The gel is applied to the white patches. Your dentist may also recommend oral antifungal medications.

  • Your dentist will recommend sprays and mouthwashes to treat oral lichen planus. You should also practice good oral hygiene such as brushing and flossing twice a day and avoid drinks and foods that irritate the mouth. 

  • Your dentist will monitor leukoplakia to make sure the white patches are not getting worse. They will recommend antifungal medications or steroids and avoiding alcohol and tobacco to treat leukoplakia. They may recommend surgery to remove the white patches if the risk of oral cancer is high. Removing the white patches will ensure the cells found in the patches won’t turn cancerous. 

Common Tongue Problems

Besides white tongue, a few common tongue problems include:

Burning Mouth Syndrome 

It may indicate a problem in the tongue nerves. Health conditions such as infections, nutritional deficiencies, hormonal changes, diabetes, acid reflux, or dry mouth may cause burning mouth syndrome. 

Oral Cancer 

Oral cancer can occur on the tongue, lips, gums, and roof of the mouth. Its symptoms include difficulty moving the tongue or jaw, pain, lumps, and sores that do not heal. 

Black Hairy Tongue

The hairy tongue gives a brown or black furry appearance. The hairs on your tongue are proteins that turn small bumps into longer strands, where food and bacteria accumulate. The hairy tongue usually occurs due to the use of certain antibiotics or following a diet that includes soft foods that don’t scrub the surface of the tongue. It will get better by brushing or scraping your tongue. 


Glossitis is an inflammation of the tongue, causes swelling, color change, or the small bumps on the tongue’s surface to disappear. It can also be a sign of another tongue problem, such as thrush. 

You can avoid tongue problems by practicing good oral hygiene and regularly visiting your dentist for cleanings and checkups. 

Causes and treatment of sore or white tongue


Urbandale Smiles

Urbandale Smiles is a leading dental care service provider in Urbandale, IA. We value our patients and take pride in providing them comprehensive care and high-quality dental services aided by modern technology and sophisticated tools that are current in the dental care industry.

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