Painful Tongue-Pain Under Tongue, On & Side Causes & Treatment

What causes sores or pain under your tongue, on the tongue and sides of your tongue. Can this pain be relieved and cured? What are the available treatment options? Read on to find out.

Likely Causes of Pain under Tongue (Sore underneath Tongues)

A number of different conditions can result in pain and/or the presence of abnormalities, bumps, ulcers, or sores on the tongue as well as symptoms like pain, swelling, or burning of the tongue. Problems with the tongue can result from infections, tumors, chronic medical conditions, trauma, or toxins. Inflammation of the tongue is medically known as glossitis. Pain in the tongue is

Known as glossodynia. Inflammation may occur on the sides of the tongue, the tip of the tongue, on the back of the tongue, or throughout the tongue. Because soreness or painful lesions on the tongue can have a wide variety of causes, treatment and outlook depend upon the particular condition that is responsible

There are a myriad of tongue problems that you may encounter. This is really frustrating and can even be since the tongue is what you use most in a day be it talking or eating. Having signs and symptoms that are especially visible may be very embarrassing. Some of the problems that affect the tongue include:

  • Swelling
  • Discoloration
  • Change in taste
  • Painful sores
  • Change in texture
pain under tongue, on tongue, left side of the tongue that hurts, causes & treatment

According to the National Health Service – UK[i], a sore or painful tongue is caused by something obvious and visible though you should be aware that some obvious need treatment. You should see your physician or dentist when the pain is excruciating or when the pain has not be caused by either biting or burning your tongue. If this occurs, then there might be an underlying condition that if treated will alleviate the pain. Some of the causes of tongue pain include:


This may occur due to an infection or injury. It may also result from biting your tongue. Such sores may last days and accompanied by extreme pain. Injuries on the tongue especially the papillae can result in inflammation and malfunction of the taste buds. Small painful bumps occur and are irritated by hot foods. Sores may arise from food deficiencies such as that of vitamin B12 or folate. Both of these deficiencies result in anemia and this is why anemia has been linked to sore tongues. Iron deficiency is also a probable cause.  Canker sore is specific to the surface or underside of the tongue. These sores including cold sores and burns result in inflammation of the tongue. Canker sores appear small, white or yellow but unlike cold sores, don’t occur due to herpes virus. The use of toothpastes with abrasive ingredients also increase the chances of getting a sore tongue. Food allergies are not to be excluded too.

Aphthous mouth ulcers(Canker sores)

They occur anywhere within the mouth but commonly on the underside of the tongue. Damage to the mouth such as trauma and biting oneself may result in such types of ulcers. Aphthous ulcers are unexplained canker sores too and usually fade without any treatment.

Viral infection

Such as an infection by viruses that cause hand, foot and mouth disease or cold sores. Oral herpes – herpes is an infection that results in cold sores and accompanied by pain too.

Irritating dentures and braces

These prosthetics may act as allergens to you when you have hypersensitivity towards them. Apart from this, dentures and braces can cause abrasion and irritation that causes inflammation.

Other causes

Other causes that result in inflamed and painful tongue include stress, anxiety and hormone-induced ulcers. Some ulcers also occur due to habits such as smoking. They fortunately heal within a week or two. They however keep recurring.

Side of tongue hurts-Causes of pain on right and left side of the tongue

The tongue, particularly the sides are the most common sites for oral cancer, with the floor of the mouth coming in second.

Other causes of pain on the sides of the tongue include some that have been mentioned before in this material. These include:

  • Viral infections
  • Aphthous mouth ulcers
  • Tongue piercings on the frenum such as web piercing
  • Vitamin B12 and folate deficiencies
  • Canker sores (aphthous ulcers) can occur anywhere in the mouth, including on the sides of the tongue.

Pain on tongue Causes

The causes of pain on the tongue are a good number and higher than those that result in pain on the underside and the sides of the tongue.

Some of these causes include:

  1. Glossopharyngeal neuralgia – this refers to repetitive episodes of nerve irritation that results in pain
  2. Oral thrush – this is a fungal infection that results in coated or white tongue with associated areas of soreness on the tongue. You will highly get this infection when you are on antibiotics, have a weak immune system, have diabetes and are on poor oral hygiene.
  3. Geographic – this is also known as benign migratory glossitis or oral erythema migrans. It results in map-like streaks and irregular patches known as erythroplakia with white borders. The red patches may feel sore and painful especially when exposed to spicy foods and some beverages. You will notice a change in the position of these lines with time and according to Colgate Oral Care dentists, geographical tongue may cause a burning sensation[ii].
  4. Mouth irritation – irritations caused by over-brushing the tongue or overuse of mouthwashes may cause tissue inflammation. Following this, your tongue becomes more sensitive to acidic beverages and some foods.
  5. Medication side effects – soreness may occur as one of the side effects of some drugs including non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). Beta blockers such as propranolol and some mouthwashes can cause tongue pain. Mouthwashes that are alcohol based especially.
  6. Median rhomboid glossitis – results from a fungal infection and manifests as a red, inflamed patch at the middle or back of the tongue.
  7. Pemphigus vulgaris– occurs as blisters that are painful and are not only located in the mouth, nose and throat, but also find their way into the anus, genitals and on the skin.
  8. Glossodyniaor “burning mouth syndrome” – the tip of the tongue becomes painful and this is described as a burning pain.
  9. Lichen planus– just as pemphigus vulgaris, this condition affects the mouth and also the skin as an itchy rash. In the mouth, a white pattern resembling a laced cloth is formed alongside painful patches on the tongue.
  10. Grinding or clenching the teeth can also irritate the sides of the tongue and cause it to become painful[iii].
  11. Referred pain – this is pain that originates and felt in different parts of the body. Pain from sources such as cardiac angina can be referred to the teeth and jaws. The tongue too.
  12. Moeller’s glossitis
  13. Lie bumps (transient lingual papillitis)
  14. Behçet’s disease

How to treat/Relief Tongue Pain/sores at Home

There are various tips through which the pain you feel on your tongue can be alleviated, managed and prevented from occurring. Since the tongue is a very sensitive part of the body, treatment of underlying conditions is really important. However, if the pain felt persists for as long as a week, then visit a doctor for consultation and proper drug prescription. Such tips include:

Aloe vera

This herb has a broad spectrum of uses. It also has anti-inflammatory properties and therefore reduces the swelling and pain resulting from this swelling. The affected area smeared is with some of the extract. The extract gel from the leaves, is applied on the affected are. This is repeated severally.

Hydrogen peroxide

The advantage with this chemical is that it has antiseptic properties. In the case of infections, this chemical works to eliminate the bacteria and even fungi. The concentration of hydrogen peroxide used is3%. It should be added to water to dilute then using a clean cotton wool then apply it on the tongue for some seconds.


Salt acts as a natural antiseptic that reduces pain and inflammation too. 240 mL (1 cup) of water is prepared and 1 teaspoon of salt added and shaken. The solution is used in gaggling or rinsing the mouth to eliminate the microbes present.


This herb has anti-inflammatory properties. It is prepared by making a paste of licorice in the amount of 1 teaspoon. The paste is then applied on the affected area of the tongue then allowed to stand for some minutes. A mouth rinse can also be prepared by adding water gaggled.



For sore tongues caused by deficiencies in vitamins, iron and folate, the diet should be enriched with foods that contain high amounts of each. Such foods include fish, eggs, fortified cereals, whole grains and fruits.


It acts as a probiotic competing with the pathogenic bacteria in the mouth. This also modulates the immune response to any triggers and therefore prevents inflammation.


Effective in the treatment of mouth infections such as the tongue, and canker sores.

Sources and References

[i] National Health Service;




Longo, D.L., et al.Harrison’s Principles of Internal Medicine, 18th ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Professional, 2011.


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