Home TongueTongue Pain Pain Under Tongue and on Sides, Causes and Treatment

Pain Under Tongue and on Sides, Causes and Treatment

by Dr. Joe Morales

Pain under the tongue and on sides can mean your tongue is injured or infected. Numerous problems can affect your tongue causing pain: sores, swelling, and change in taste, color or the texture of your tongue. Here is an insight into the possible causes of the pain and possible treatment options to get rid of the symptom.

What causes pain under the tongue?

Most cases of pain under the tongue are not serious. Sometimes, however, the pain might occur as a symptom of a serious underlying medical condition that would call for immediate medical attention. By practicing good oral hygiene, most dentist and general practitioner believe you can protect most of this conditions.

A sore on sides of tongue can make it painful

A sore on sides of tongue can make it painful.

Apart from the pain felt under the tongue, it is also possible to experience other symptoms such;

  • A partial or complete loss of taste
  • Swollen tongue
  • Difficulties in moving the tongue
  • Change in the color and texture of the tongue
  • Some people might have a furry or hairy appearance of the tongue
  • Red or white patches appearing on the tongue
  • Difficulties in moving the tongue which might cause problems with swallowing or talking

It is important to have a dentist examine to establish what the underlying cause of the symptoms is. This way, early treatment can be prescribed to prevent the infection for instance from spreading.

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Below is a list of some of the possible cause of the pain underneath your tongue.

 1)   Painful white bumps on tongue

A sharp pain under the tongue or on sides of the tongue can be caused by painful white bumps that appear on the tongue. White patches are in most cases caused as a result of poor oral hygiene. The patches may also occur as a result of viral or bacterial infection.

White patches, spots, dots or bumps on the tongue or in the mouth can be caused by conditions such as canker sores, oral thrush, cold sores or fever blisters and mouth ulcers. The bumps forms as a result of inflammation or swelling and damage of the mucous membrane that lines the mouth, tongue, and throat.

2)   Geographic tongue

Geographic tongue or tongue fissures can make it painful or sore.

Geographic tongue or tongue fissures can make it painful or sore.

Also known as benign migratory glossitis, geographic tongue is a harmless condition affecting the surface of the tongue. With this condition, the tongue is normally covered with tiny, pinkish or white bumps.

The lesions or patches on tongue give the tongue a map-like or geographic appearance thus the names geographic tongue. Though the condition might appear alarming, it does not cause health problem and it is also not associated with infection or cancer.

3)   Tongue Sores

There is an array of condition that could lead to abnormalities such as bumps, sores, or ulcers on the tongue. These abnormalities are responsible for symptoms such as pain, swelling, and burning mouth. The swelling or inflammation of the tongue might result from infection, tumors, chronic medical condition, trauma or toxins.

The sores or Inflammations can occur on the sides of the tongue, the tip of the tongue, on the back of the tongue or throughout the entire tongue in some people. Given that the soreness can result from an array of different causes, the best way to treat the sore appearing on the tongue will be to treat the underlying cause.

Other conditions that could be associated with the soreness include dehydration, dry mouth, and fever.

4)   Oral thrush

The other most likely cause of pain under the tongue is oral thrush. Oral thrush s also known as oral candidiasis, this is a yeast or fungal infection that develop on the mucous membranes of the mouth. Oral thrush is caused by the fungus Candida Albicans.

In adults, oral thrush will generally appear as thick, white or cream-colored deposits on the mucous membrane-the thin lining of the mouth, tongue, and throat-This lining will appear swollen and slightly red. The spots on the tongue will be raised causing discomfort and burning sensation. Oral thrush could be the reason you are having pain under your tongue.

5)   Dentures and braces

Metal braces and crooked dentures can cause injuries to the sides of your tongue causing pain.

6)   Canker sores

Canker sores in the mouth and tongue can cause a great deal of pain. Canker sores are small ulcers that develop inside mouth. The sores can also develop at the base of gums, the inside of cheeks, and the palate of mouth, lips and at times on the tongue.

These sores are usually colored white or yellowish, surrounded by a slightly swollen, red area. These sores are benign and as such will not lead to a more serious oral problem.

7)   Cold sores

Mostly referred to as fever blisters, they are a common viral infection. Just like the canker sore, they are tiny, fluid-filled blisters on and around the lips. Cold sores are caused by herpes simplex virus that closely relates to the one known to cause genital herpes.

8)   Other possible causes of pain under the tongue are:

  • Aphthous mouth ulcers
  • Swollen gland under the tongue
  • Oral lichen planus
  • Injury or infection
  • Oral herpes
  • Oral cancer
  • Food or drug allergy causing the tongue to swell
  • Vitamin deficiency and anemia
  • Burning mouth syndrome
  • Excessive mouth dehydration

Sharp pain on sides of the tongue

A sharp pain on the sides of the tongue can be a source of discomfort. The pain could cause you to have difficulties when talking or swallowing foods. What then are the possible cause of the sharp pain and what do you need to do to get rid of the pain?

Most people with pain on the sides of the tongue will also develop sores and ulceration on the tongue. The sores or blisters can be red or yellow and will in most cases be filled with fluid, this is a common cause for cold sores or fever blisters. The other possible cause of the sharp pain can include the following.

Viral infection

The most common cause of the pain is a viral infection. A viral infection of the mouth or tongue can be the same to those affecting the hands, foot. A good example is a cold sore. Cold sores sometimes referred to as fever blisters, are small blister that develops on the lips and around the mouth. Cold sores are caused by herpes simplex virus and usually clear up without treatment.

The symptoms of a herpes infection or any other viral infection of the tongue will vary depending on how severe the infection is. In most cases, the signs will vary from small white spots, mild tingling to painful large blisters around the tongue. Even though the infection could heal up on its own, it is important to seek early treatment from your dentist.

Most viral infection in the mouth can be treated with anti-viral drugs. This medication work by bringing the infection under control and speeding up healing.

Canker sores

Canker sores could be the other possible cause of the pain under your tongue. Canker sore also called aphthous ulcers, are small, shallow lesions that develop on the soft tissues in your mouth or at the base of your gums [mayo clinic]. The difference between canker sores and cold sores is that, unlike cold sores, they do not occur on the surface of your lips. Canker sores are also not contagious. They can, however, be painful causing a lot of discomfort and difficulties in talking and eating.

Most cases of these sores will go away on their own within a week or two. For those that fail to do so, you will need to check with you, doctor or dentist. You will also need to check with your doctor if you have large or painful sores or when the sores fail to heal.

The actual cause of canker sores is not known, t is however believed to run in families and can be triggered by such things as stress, menstrual cycle, trauma and injuries on your tongue, food allergies or eating and drinking lots of acidic foods such as oranges.

Vitamin deficiency

Having a sore or painful tongue could also mean you have vitamin B12 or folate deficiency. The pain could also mean you have iron deficiency known to cause anemia. Vitamin B12 or B9 most commonly called folate, deficiency anemia occurs when a lack of vitamin B122 causes the body to produce abnormally large red blood cells that cannot function properly.

This vitamin performs an important function in the body such as keeping the nervous system healthy. This deficiency can cause a wide range of problems. Some of the symptoms will include:

  • Lack of energy and extreme tiredness
  • Painful sores and a red tongue
  • Painful mouth ulcers
  • Left untreated it could lead to problems with memory, understanding, and judgment.


Anemia is a condition where iron deficiency in the body leads to the reduction in the number of red blood cells. When the anemia is caused by lack of iron, then the condition is referred to as iron deficiency anemia.

Pain in tongue and mouth is a common symptom of anemia. Other symptoms will include:

  • A severe headache
  • Painful sore in the mouth or abnormal smooth tongue
  • Tiredness and lack of energy
  • Shortness of breath
  • A pale complexion
  • Altered sense of taste
  • Difficulties in swallowing food
  • Painful ulcers in corners of the mouth.

If the underlying cause of the pain under the tongue is iron deficiency anemia, then treatment will involve taking iron supplements to boost the low level of iron in your body. This form of treatment is usually effective. Iron deficiency anemia rarely causes long-term problems.

You can also boost the iron level by eating: dark green vegetables, brown rice, pulses and bean, meat and fish, eggs and dried fruits such as apricots, prunes, and raisins.


A sore throat can also result in a painful tongue

A sore throat can also result in a painful tongue.

Candidiasis is a common oral infection known to cause oral thrush. An oral thrush infection will occur when a yeast infection develops on the inside of your mouth and on the tongue.

Oral injuries

The sharp pain occurring on sides of the tongue can also simply be as a result of external traumas and injuries. For instance, you could bite your tongue to develop painful sores on sides of the tongue that could last for a long time.

You could also develop inflamed papillae or taste buds as a result of tongue injuries. These are painful bumps commonly from a bite or injury. The buds can also swell as a result of irritation from hot foods.

Oral lichen planus

Oral lichen planus is a chronic inflammation of the skin inside the mouth. Though it is common adult older than 45 years, the condition can affect younger adults and children and it is a possible cause of pain inside the mouth and on the tongue.

Treatments for pain under the tongue

The discomfort caused by the pain under the tongue can be really annoying. Though at times the pain might not be a reason for concern, understanding the underlying cause can be of great importance in trying to get rid of the pain, irritation, and inflammation in your mouth.

That said, it is important to have a dentist examine the symptoms to establish the underlying cause of the pain. This way, effective treatment can be prescribed to get rid of the pain and prevent future recurring of the same.

Treatment will vary from one person to the other depending on the underlying cause, the general health of the patient, history of the condition and how strong one’s immune system is. Some cases of pain may disappear on they own without treatment, but to get rid of the pain fast, you will need to do the following:

  1. You will need to maintain good oral hygiene. Make sure you brush or floss your mouth daily to keep it free from bacteria causing infection.
  2. You can also rinse your mouth with an antibacterial mouthwash, this way, you are able to clean your mouth gently while reducing the irritation. This helps promote quick healing. The
  • For a condition such as candidiasis that could be causing the pain under the tongue, the American Academy of Oral and Maxillofacial Pathology (AAOMP). Say that the condition could clear on its own within a few day, if this fails to happen, they recommend testing for a condition such as diabetes, HIV or oral cancer.
  1. Most dentist or physicians recommend antifungal treatment for candidiasis. The medicine can be either in the form of lozenges or mouth rinse for mild cases or a regimen of oral tablets for a more severe condition.
  2. For injuries and trauma causing pain under the tongue, you will need to avoid food that causes this kind of damage and those that might worsen the pain. This kind of foods would include hot and acidic foods.
  3. Drink plenty of water and other fluids to keep your mouth hydrated, this way you will be able to reduce the pain and irritation inside the mouth and underneath the tongue.
  • Stick to a balanced diet making sure your diet contains plenty of vitamins B, folate, zinc, iron and other nutrients and vitamins.
  • Other treatments are discussed under each of the underlying causes above.

Home remedies for a painful tongue

  1. a)Dub some fresh Aloe Vera gel on your tongue

Aloe Vera is one of the best home remedies for an array of different skin and oral condition. Aloe Vera is rich in soothing properties that can help relieve itching, irritation, and pain inside the mouth. The herb contains anti-inflammatories, anti-itching properties, antibacterial and antiseptic properties. A combination of all these properties makes aloe Vera a great remedy for the pain under the tongue.

To use Aloe Vera,

  1. Cut a fresh Aloe Vera leave and wash it
  2. Cut it lengthwise to squeeze the gel or chop it into small slices
  • With a clean cotton swab, or finger smear the gel on the affected part of the tongue or mouth
  1. For children, you could add a tablespoon of raw honey to the gel before smearing
  2. Do this repeatedly twice in a day
  3. b)Try licorice

Another naturally occurring anti-inflammatory herb is licorice. Licorice is a sweet, chewy, aromatic black substance made by evaporation from the juice of a root. It is used as a candy or in medicine. To use the herb as a remedy for pain in mouth and tongue, you need to prepare a paste of licorice.

Do the following:

  1. Add two tablespoon of licorice powder in a cup
  2. Into the cup add a considerable amount of water, gently mix to achieve a fine paste
  • Apply the paste o tongue and inside the mouth on the affected area
  1. Leave the paste on for some minutes before rinsing it off
  2. Repeat this daily
  3. c)Rinse your mouth with hydrogen peroxide

You can also use hydrogen peroxide to prevent bacterial or viral infection. Hydrogen peroxide has antiseptic properties, in the case of an oral bacterial or fungal infection causing the pain, the chemical will work to eliminate it.

Do not use undiluted hydrogen peroxide. The right concentration of the chemical to use should not be more than 3%. Add some water to dilute the chemical.

  1. d)Glycerin could offer relief for mouth infection causing the pain

For mouth infection such as canker sore causing the pain on the tongue, a solution of glycerin can be effective in treating it. Glycerin is readily available in a drug store and other general stores. Apply the glycerin twice a day for effective relief of the pain.

  1. e)Gargle with salt to reduce inflammation causing the pain

Salt is said to be a natural antiseptic with strong anti-inflammatory quality. All you need to do is gargle a lukewarm saline solution twice a day and the sore, or infection causing pain under the tongue will be long gone.

  1. Into a cup of clean water, add a tablespoon of kitchen salt
  2. Gently stir to mix to achieve a fine solution
  • Gargle the solution for 10 minutes
  1. Do this repeatedly twice a day until the pain clears
  2. f)Maintain a vitamin diet

If the underlying cause of the sore or painful tongue is a deficiency in vitamin, iron, and folate, then the best way to treat this will be to maintain a diet rich in the said minerals and nutrients. Make sure you eat moderate quantities of foods such as fish, eggs, fortified cereals, whole grains, and fruits.

  1. g)Natural probiotic like yogurt

Yogurt a natural probiotic can also help event against bacterial infection in the mouth. Probiotics modulates the immune response to any triggers and therefore prevents inflammations inside the mouth that could be causing the pain under the tongue.


  1. Tongue problems: http://www.healthline.com/health/tongue-problems-2#Causes3
  2. Sore or painful tongue: http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/tongue-pain/Pages/Introduction.aspx
  3. Tongue blisters and how to get rid of them: http://www.colgate.com/en/us/oc/oral-health/conditions/mouth-sores-and-infections/article/tongue-blisters-types-treatment-1215

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