Tongue ulcers, often called canker sores or aphthous ulcers, are common oral conditions that can cause considerable discomfort. These small, painful sores appear on the tongue or elsewhere in the mouth. They are usually round or oval, with a white or yellowish centre and a red border. While uncomfortable, they are typically harmless and resolve independently within a week or two.
However, persistent or recurrent tongue ulcers may signify a more serious underlying condition and should prompt a visit to a healthcare provider.
Causes of Tongue Ulcers
The precise cause of tongue ulcers is not entirely understood, but several factors can contribute to their formation:
- Physical trauma: Accidentally biting the tongue, eating hard or sharp-edged foods, or brushing your teeth too vigorously can all cause trauma leading to an ulcer.
- Nutritional deficiencies: Shortages of certain vitamins and minerals, particularly B-12, zinc, folate, or iron, can increase the risk of tongue ulcers.
- Stress and hormonal changes: Some people are prone to tongue ulcers during high stress or hormonal fluctuations, such as menstruating.
- Underlying medical conditions: Celiac disease, inflammatory bowel disease, Behcet’s disease, HIV/AIDS, and a weakened immune system can make individuals more susceptible to tongue ulcers.
- Certain foods: Some individuals may develop ulcers after consuming certain foods, including chocolate, coffee, strawberries, eggs, nuts, cheese, and spicy or acidic foods.
- Allergic reactions: Tongue ulcers can also result from an allergic reaction to certain bacteria in the mouth or specific toothpaste or mouthwashes.
Symptoms of Tongue Ulcers
The primary symptom of a tongue ulcer is a painful sore on the tongue. The sore may be white or yellow, surrounded by a red area. They can cause discomfort while eating, drinking, or speaking. Other symptoms can include a tingling or burning sensation in the mouth before the sore appears.
Treatment for Tongue Ulcers
Most tongue ulcers heal without treatment within one to two weeks. However, it’s important to seek medical attention if you have large or persistent ulcers or if they are spreading. Treatment for tongue ulcers may include:
- Topical products: Over-the-counter creams, ointments, pastes, or rinses may help reduce pain and speed healing.
- Mouth rinses: If the ulcers are large or painful, your dentist or medical doctor might prescribe a mouth rinse with lidocaine to relieve pain.
- Oral medications: Oral steroids may be prescribed if other treatments are ineffective.
- Cauterization of the ulcers: During this process, a chemical or instrument is used to burn, sear, or destroy tissue.
Prevention of Tongue Ulcers
While it’s not always possible to prevent tongue ulcers, some steps can reduce your risk. These include maintaining good oral hygiene, avoiding foods that trigger your ulcers, and managing stress through meditation, yoga, and regular exercise.
It’s crucial to remember that while tongue ulcers are often harmless, a healthcare provider should examine any ulcer persisting for more than two weeks to rule out oral cancer or other serious conditions.
Disclaimer: The content presented in this article is designed to provide general information only. It is not a replacement for professional healthcare advice, diagnosis, or treatment and should not be used to self-diagnose or self-treat. Amazing Smiles encourages individuals to consult with a certified healthcare provider or a local dentist for dental health concerns. For a precise diagnosis and personalized treatment recommendations, it is essential to always consult with a dentist or a suitably qualified healthcare provider.