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Tongue Discomfort


Bernard J. Hennessy

, DDS, Texas A&M University, College of Dentistry

Last full review/revision May 2020
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Tongue discomfort includes both pain and burning sensations, often caused by irritation.

The most common causes of tongue discomfort are

Other causes of tongue discomfort include

Evaluation of tongue discomfort must first exclude submandibular space infection Submandibular Space Infection Submandibular space infection is acute cellulitis of the soft tissues below the mouth. Symptoms include pain, dysphagia, and potentially fatal airway obstruction. Diagnosis usually is clinical... read more Submandibular Space Infection , which is life-threatening due to potential airway obstruction. Many other causes, such as a sharp tooth edge or candidiasis Candidiasis (Mucocutaneous) Candidiasis is skin and mucous membrane infection with Candida species, most commonly Candida albicans. Infections can occur anywhere and are most common in skinfolds, digital web spaces, genitals... read more Candidiasis (Mucocutaneous) , are readily apparent on examination. Identifying irritant causes often requires sequential elimination of possible causes. Burning mouth syndrome is a diagnosis of exclusion once other causes have been ruled out.

Tongue discomfort not caused by infection is usually treated by eliminating the cause (eg, changing brands of toothpaste, particularly to a brand that does not contain sodium lauryl sulfate), avoiding irritating/acidic/spicy foods, or having a sharp or broken tooth repaired. Warm salt-water rinses may help. Identified underlying conditions are treated.

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Tongue Discoloration and Other Changes
A 12-year-old girl is brought to the office by her grandmother because she has had pain in her mouth for the past week. The patient appears to be drooling. Physical examination shows a smooth red tongue. Tenderness is noted on palpation of the oral mucosa. Based on these findings, this patient most likely has a deficiency of which of the following? 
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