Dental Health

Most common tongue diseases, symptoms, treatment & more

What are the most common tongue diseases?

Have you ever thought about the multitude of fundamental functions that your language performs? This muscle helps us speak, and eat.  basic actions for our lives. However, we do not always pay it the important attention it deserves in terms of cleaning and care. In this article, we explain which are the most common diseases of the tongue.

You should know that the tongue works as an extension of the stomach, so through it, you can know its status. In addition, it has thousands of nerve endings, which communicate with different parts of the body.

This organ can also get sick. A healthy tongue appears pink, moist, smooth, and without cracks. When we perceive a state other than this, it is necessary to go to the dentist so that he can perform an examination and detect if there is a problem.

What are tongue diseases?

The tongue is one of the most important muscles in our body since it is essential for both the eating process and the speaking process. That is why having a sick tongue should be a reason for concern for you.

Due to the area in which it is located and the contact it has with all types of substances, a wide variety of diseases can occur in the tongue. Above all, infections.

These types of diseases can be quite annoying and interfere with your day-to-day actions. Plus, of course, they can be serious and even contagious.

That is why it is important to know what tongue disease you suffer from, the severity of each of them, and the appropriate type of treatment according to its type.

Types of tongue diseases

*Oral thrush: A type of yeast infection is responsible for the development of white, rough patches on the tongue.

*Burning mouth syndrome: The exact cause of this syndrome, which produces a burning sensation in the tongue and other areas of the mouth, is unknown. It can be caused by nerve damage, allergies, nutritional deficiencies, or hormonal changes.

*Black and hairy tongue:  Black, hairy tongue is usually more of an aesthetic problem than a medical one. People with this condition do not remove dead tongue cells from the top which leads to their build-up. After a certain time, a kind of layer of dark hair can be seen on the tongue. This problem can develop after taking antibiotics or as a result of a diet composed of soft foods that do not come into contact with the surface of the tongue.

*Oral cancer: Some types of oral cancer develop on the tongue. Symptoms of tongue cancer may include pain, spots, and difficulty moving the tongue or jaw.

*Glossitis: Glossitis is inflammation of the tongue. In some cases, it is a sign of another problem, such as oral thrush. Glossitis is also responsible for the surface of the tongue resembling that of a map.

13 Most common tongue diseases

Pain in the tongue:

Pain is always an indication that something is not right in our body. In the case of the tongue, more serious conditions usually involve other types of symptoms, so feeling pain in this part of the mouth is usually the result of an accidental bite.

Although we have discussed various diseases, none of them cause a sensation of pain. Hence, accidentally biting ourselves, for example, when we are eating, is the main reason that causes pain in our tongue. 

Eating very hot foods or drinks can also cause slight burns on the lingual surface. Until a few minutes have passed, we are likely to notice discomfort and some distress in this case. 

Although those mentioned are the most common tongue diseases, the truth is that there are more and your case may not be covered in this article. Therefore, if you have any questions that we have not resolved, we encourage you to contact us. In this way, we can receive you for a free first consultation and determine if your case requires any treatment.

Hairy Leukoplakia

It is one of the main symptoms of HIV infection, but it can also appear in patients with a weak immune system or after a bone marrow transplant. It manifests itself with the appearance of white, hairy spots on the lateral area of ​​the tongue.

Oral candidiasis

Oral candidiasis is an infection caused by excess candida fungus in the mouth and manifests itself with white lesions in some parts of the mouth, such as the tongue or gums. Under these spots, it is common to find a red undercoat that may bleed.

Oral candidiasis occurs mainly in people with a weak immune system. Therefore, this can affect adults with chronic diseases or HIV, as well as babies, who due to natural circumstances have poorly developed immunity. 

At this point, it is important to highlight that this type of tongue infection can be spread from one person to another – through a kiss.

it is important to take extreme precautions while suffering from candidiasis, as well as visit the dentist to schedule treatment. Once the diagnosis is made, it will be the dentist who determines how we can cure candidiasis on the tongue. Although each case may require one treatment or another, the usual thing is that an oral antifungal is prescribed, with which the patient rinses several times a day.

*Fungal infection, which manifests itself with the appearance of white spots. If not treated properly, oral candidiasis can spread to the rest of the body, causing important pathologies such as esophagitis (infection of the esophagus), meningitis (brain), endocarditis (heart), endophthalmitis (eyes) or arthritis (joints).


Glossitis is usually accompanied by a change in color, a burning sensation, and swelling.

Oral lichen planus

Oral lichen planus is the most common non-infectious disease of the oral mucosa – made up of the tongue, the inside of the cheeks, and the floor of the mouth. First of all, we will highlight that this pathology is inflammatory and chronic, so it tends to reappear and disappear over time. The two main causes that contribute to its appearance are immune disorders and diseases such as hepatitis C.

Oral lichen planus manifests itself with spots -white or red-, which can vary in size and be asymptomatic or cause symptoms -rash or itching. Finally, we will emphasize that this disease is not spread from one person to another.

However, it is important to keep in mind that, as with any lesion that appears in the mouth, it is essential to go to the dentist or doctor when we notice its existence. During the consultation, said specialist will determine the most appropriate treatment, which may involve taking a sample of the lesion – through a biopsy – or prescribing medication.

*Symptoms include the appearance of white lines on the tongue.


Leukoplakia is another of the most common tongue diseases, but it develops mainly in adults. It is a disorder that manifests itself with white spots in areas of the oral cavity such as the tongue and the inside of the cheeks.

It generally has an irritative origin: it is caused by the irritation that our teeth, dental prostheses, or even tobacco and alcohol can cause. In these cases, eliminating the source of irritation causes the leukoplakia to disappear. However, any lesion in the mouth should be checked by the dentist, family doctor, or otolaryngologist, as it may be an early sign of oral cancer.

Black hairy tongue

Black hairy tongue is a disease that causes this part of our mouth to take on a dark, hairy appearance. This disorder has its origin in an accumulation of dead cells in the papillae on the surface of the tongue.

Although its appearance may seem unpleasant and very striking, it does not usually cause health problems or pain. In addition, it is generally temporary and is resolved with thorough hygiene of the teeth and tongue. It is very advisable to restrict the consumption of tobacco, black coffee or tea, and alcohol.

Fissured tongue

This disease causes cracks on the top of the tongue. Its consequences are essentially aesthetic since it is a very mild disease that causes only discomfort and halitosis. Even so, as with all tongue diseases, it is necessary to go to your dentist to know what to do.

Scarlet fever:

The symptoms are red discoloration of the tongue and the appearance of fever. It must be treated immediately to apply the appropriate treatment.

Oral cancer

Cancer is one of the most serious diseases of the tongue. The tongue and lips are two of the most common areas where cancer can appear. If you have a sore on the tongue, or in another area of ​​the mouth, an ulcer, or bleeding that does not improve, you should consult a maxillofacial surgeon as soon as possible.

Kawasaki syndrome

Kawasaki syndrome affects the blood vessels and can cause the so-called “strawberry tongue.” It mainly affects children under five years of age. You must visit the specialist as soon as possible.

Geographical tongue

This condition constitutes one of the most common tongue diseases. Geographic tongue, also known as benign migratory glossitis, is named for the shape of the reddish spots that develop on the surface of the tongue.


It is currently believed to be a hereditary problem. It occurs when the bottom of the tongue is stuck to the floor of the mouth. Babies who have breastfeeding problems are the most susceptible to this problem.

Treatment involves cutting the tissue under the tongue in a doctor’s office (frenotomy). There are more serious situations in which it is necessary to go to the operating room. The doctor must decide in each case which is the best option.

Symptoms of Tongue Diseases

Tongue problems or diseases include the following symptoms :

*Change in color or texture of the tongue


*Difficulty moving the tongue or abnormal movements

*Taste disorders

*Ulcers or sores

*Problems perceiving the sense of taste

*Appearance of cracks on the tongue

*Pain in the tongue

*Inflammation in the tongue

*Appearance of white or red spots on the tongue

*Difficulty moving the tongue when chewing or speaking

Causes of pain in the tongue

Multiple causes can cause pain in the tongue, some originate or affect only the tongue; others, on the contrary, are the expression of a systemic disease that manifests itself with pain. Among the most common causes are:

*Accidental biting of the tongue, during its movement within the oral cavity or due to diseases such as epilepsy.

*Excessive consumption of toxic substances such as alcohol or tobacco.

*Nutritional deficiency, such as lack of iron, zinc, vitamin B9, B1, B2, B6, and B12.

*Allergic reactions to certain substances such as condiments, food additives, fragrances, and substances in dental products or dyes.

*Digestive diseases such as chronic gastric acid reflux or celiac disease.

*Endocrine diseases, such as diabetes or hypothyroidism.

*Certain drugs can cause tongue pain in sensitive people, such as antihypertensives or cancer treatments (chemotherapy/radiotherapy).

*Bad oral habits, such as tongue thrusting teeth grinding, or bruxism.

*Irritation in the mouth that can appear due to excessive brushing, the use of abrasive toothpastes, mouthwashes, or excessive consumption of acidic drinks.

*Psychological conditions such as anxiety, depression, or stress.

*Viral infections, such as hand, foot, and mouth herpes or cold sores.

*Dental problems, gingivitis, sharp tooth edges that erode the mucosa, cavities, dental malocclusion, loss of filling, poorly placed dental prostheses, etc.

*Dry mouth, caused as a side effect of different drugs, cancer therapies, or diseases that affect the function of the salivary glands.

*Oral conditions, such as oral candidiasis.

*Specific diseases of the tongue such as geographic tongue: benign and self-limiting condition, which causes inflammation, whitish lesions on the tongue, and sometimes pain; or like Burning Mouth Syndrome, which presents with continuous and recurrent pain, sometimes severe, that is not accompanied by changes in the oral mucosa and is of unknown cause, although it is more common in smoking women over 50 years of age. and menopausal.

*Appearance of mouth ulcers caused by damage to the mouth, such as accidentally biting the tongue, ingesting something hard, sharp, or cutting.

*Diseases that affect the immune system and lead to the appearance of sores or ulcers on the lingual mucosa.

Tongue pain treatments

The treatment of glossalgia varies depending on the factors that intervene in its appearance and must be aimed at treating the cause that produces it. In most cases, once the responsible cause is identified and treated, the painful symptoms disappear. Possible approaches include:

*Preventive measures to avoid injuries caused by biting the tongue, particularly in patients diagnosed with epilepsy.

*Avoid the habitual consumption of toxic substances for the lingual mucosa, such as alcohol or tobacco.

*Eat a balanced diet based on the Mediterranean diet.

*Avoid the consumption of substances that may cause allergies that cause lingual involvement, and if an adverse reaction occurs, seek medical advice to receive appropriate treatment.

*In cases of lingual involvement due to drugs, consult with our regular doctor before or during use.

*Go to a dental specialist to receive appropriate treatment in cases of bad oral habits or dental problems.

*Go to a doctor to receive appropriate treatment in cases where a digestive or endocrine cause is identified.

*Lingual conditions caused by viral, fungal, or other infections require specific treatment in a medical consultation.

*Cancer patients receiving chemotherapy and/or radiotherapy treatment must receive specific treatment to avoid the oral-lingual dryness usually associated with this type of treatment.

*The geographical tongue: requires correct oral hygiene and avoiding the intake of irritants such as acidic, hot, or spicy foods, as well as the consumption of alcohol or tobacco.

*Burning mouth syndrome: requires combined treatment with products that replace saliva. Specific mouthwashes or lidocaine, cause numbness to help relieve pain. Specific analgesics. Certain antidepressants. Psychological therapy for pain control.

*Diseases of the immune system that affect the tongue require specific medical treatment.

Read more: How to choose the best baby toothpaste

Top 6 home remedies for tongue diseases

There are different home remedies that one can use to combat oral candidiasis.

Include natural yogurt in your diet:

Natural yogurt is considered one of the remedies that works best for fungus in the mouth. It is a probiotic food that contains healthy bacteria that help stop the growth of fungi. 

*Include your client with 2 natural yogurts a day for 2 weeks. Remember that you should eat yogurt, if possible, avoiding sugar, any sweetener, syrups, or other similar additives.

Make a rinse with tea tree oil

Tea tree oil is a product that is used for numerous treatments (Acne, Psoriasis, Nail fungi, and Warts, among many others). The main properties of tea tree essential oil are antibacterial, antiviral, fungicide, healing, and insect repellent. 

*Tea tree, in the case of oral candidiasis, we recommend as a mouthwash. We are going to dilute ten drops of the oil in a glass of water. When the mixture is prepared, proceed to rinse your mouth to achieve a good result about 3 times a day (The easiest thing is to do it after each meal).

Apply aloe vera gel

Aloe vera is a plant with numerous health properties. Its gel helps inhibit the growth of the fungus, in addition to improving the healing and recovery of damaged oral tissues. 

*You can put the aloe vera gel, extracted from the plant, directly on the affected area, letting it take effect for about 10 or 15 minutes. You can do this about twice a day until you start to notice improvements.

Add garlic to your recipes

It is a food with antibacterial and antifungal properties, which helps eliminate fungus in the mouth. If you didn’t use it when preparing food, it’s time to try new recipes and add this new ingredient. 

If what you need is a faster effect, we recommend that you do the following:

*Cut a clove of garlic in half and place each half of the garlic clove on both sides of the cheeks, letting the product take effect for 30 minutes.

Use apple cider vinegar as a remedy

It is a remedy that works very well to cure oral candidiasis in adults. Apple cider vinegar contains many minerals and vitamins that strengthen the immune system.  

*Add a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar to half a cup of water and use the mixture to rinse your mouth several times a day.

Salt or baking soda

The properties of baking soda and salt are accepted in much of the world. They are two products that have many health benefits. 

As these are two products found in most homes, it is quick and easy to prepare a home remedy against fungus in the mouth. 

*Salt water acts as a disinfectant and reduces symptoms quickly. Use it as a mouthwash 3 to 4 times a day. 

*To prepare the rinse with water and baking soda, you only need to add a tablespoon of baking soda to a glass of water and then rinse well. 

If the proposed home remedies for mouth fungus are not effective. A good way to solve this type of problem in time is by periodically going to your dentist’s office to have a check-up and establish a diagnosis of your oral health.

Read more: Electric and manual teeth brushing techniques

Most frequent diseases in the tongue

Characteristics of a healthy tongue

*A healthy tongue is pink: Sometimes a white spot appears on it, but if it is thin you should not worry.

*Its surface must be smooth: If you start to notice irregularities appearing, it is better to visit a specialist.

*It should be moist: If your tongue is dry it may indicate that you suffer from stress, anemia, diabetes, or another condition.

How to clean your tongue?

Cleaning your tongue is very quick, and simple and does not require too many elements. Use your toothbrush to remove food debris and dirt. You should not use too much force and always start from the back to the front.

Some toothbrushes have ergonomic scrapers that make the process much easier and you can get better results.

*Use mouthwash.

*Use the right tools.

*You must use toothpaste in your cleaning.

*Rinse your mouth well to finish the process and avoid irritation.

Remember that your tongue is strong, but at the same time delicate. Spend time cleaning it and pay attention. Visit your dentist periodically.

When to go to the dentist?

If you have symptoms of any tongue disease that we mentioned before, you must visit your dentist or an otorhinolaryngologist. These problems could be the beginning or cause of a more serious illness that needs medical attention.

And even if you don’t have any of these symptoms, it is best to go to the dentist every 6 months for a routine check-up, which includes an oral cleaning. These professionals could detect any symptoms even before you feel them.

How to prevent dental problems

We know that dental and tongue diseases in young people are something that those affected themselves do not usually give too much importance to. For this reason, the role of the family is fundamental, both in raising awareness and in observing the possible problems mentioned above. To avoid them, it is advisable to follow the following guidelines:

*Regular dental checkups: Basic for early detection and avoiding more serious problems.

*Maintain healthy lifestyle habits: Above all, avoid smoking and eating junk food.

*Proper oral cleaning, using dental floss and mouthwash, in addition to essential tooth brushing.

*Avoid soft drinks, as well as foods with high sugar content, and maintain a balanced diet.

*Use a mouthguard, if necessary, during sports and risk activities.

Read more: How to choose the best tongue cleaner scraper?

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