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Merck Manual

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Tongue Discomfort


Bernard J. Hennessy

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

Last full review/revision May 2020| Content last modified May 2020
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Tongue discomfort, which includes pain and burning sensations, often can result from

  • Irritation from certain foods, especially acidic ones (for example, pineapple)

  • Irritation from certain ingredients in toothpaste, mouthwash, candy, or gum

  • Certain drugs

  • Thrush (candidiasis), a common infection in which an overgrowth of fungi forms a white film on the tongue

Intense pain of the tongue or the entire mouth can be caused by burning mouth syndrome.

Often it is a process of elimination to find out just what is causing the discomfort. Tongue discomfort not caused by an infection is usually treated by eliminating the cause. For example, the person may try changing brands of toothpaste (particularly to a brand that does not contain the ingredient sodium lauryl sulfate [SLS]), stop eating irritating/acidic/spicy foods, or have a sharp or broken tooth repaired by a dentist. Warm salt-water rinses may help. Thrush can be treated with an antifungal drug, such as nystatin or fluconazole.

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