What A Sore Throat And Tongue Can Mean
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What A Sore Throat And Tongue Can Mean

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Having a sore throat is uncomfortable and inconvenient, and even more so when accompanied by a sore tongue. The combination of a sore tongue and throat can be a common symptom of certain conditions, but your diagnosis depends on the other signs and symptoms you experience. Read on to find out more about the causes of a sore tongue and throat, signs and symptoms to look for and the treatment options available. 

Causes of a Sore Tongue and Throat

A sore tongue and throat can be caused by several factors including illnesses like the common cold or tonsillitis. We’ve outlined a few other causes below: 

Mouth Ulcers

Mouth ulcers are a common reason for a painful throat and tongue. Whether they're caused by sores, cuts from sharp foods, or a bacterial infection, they can affect any of the soft tissues inside your mouth – including your tongue, inner cheeks, and the gum tissue surrounding your teeth. Luckily, mouth ulcers usually aren’t a serious problem and should clear up themselves without medication in around a week. If you have a mouth ulcer that’s extra large, painful or lasts longer than 2 weeks, make an appointment to see your doctor. 

Oral Thrush

Oral thrush occurs when the candida fungus (which naturally occurs in your mouth) is out of balance.

Anyone can get oral thrush, but it’s most common in babies, toddlers, older people and people with weakened immune systems. If you have oral thrush, you might have a sore tongue and throat, notice a thick, white coating on your tongue, white or red patches in your mouth or tongue and a cotton feeling in your mouth. Your doctor will be able to diagnose if you have the condition and can prescribe an antifungal medication to clear it within a week or two. 

Burning Mouth Syndrome

Along with a sore tongue and throat, if you have burning mouth syndrome you may notice an ongoing or recurring burning feeling on your tongue, lips, gums, inside of your cheeks or roof of your mouth. You may also experience a dry mouth, tingling or numbness, or a change or loss of taste. Burning mouth syndrome can develop suddenly or over time and often the cause of it is unknown, however, it may be related to nerves or be caused by an underlying medical condition. If you think you have burning mouth syndrome, make an appointment with your doctor. There’s no singular way to treat the condition, so they’ll ask questions to try to determine the cause and discuss potential treatment options. 

Signs and Symptoms

Patients who have any of these conditions typically show some or all of the following signs:

  • Tiny red or white spots on the tongue and throat
  • Tongue or throat blisters containing fluid
  • Sore and swollen throat
  • Pain and difficulty swallowing
  • Tongue swelling
  • Sensitivity to hot foods

If you’re experiencing a fever, chills or sweating along with a sore tongue and throat, you may have symptoms of strep throat – make an appointment with your doctor for a diagnosis and treatment by antibiotics. 

Treatment Options

The first step in determining the cause of your sore tongue and throat is to find (and deter) the cause of the pain itself. Consider quitting smoking, and step up your oral health routine by brushing after each meal and rinsing your mouth daily with a mouthwash. If your sore tongue and throat are related to poor oral hygiene, this should eliminate the cause and promote long-term healing. Of course, feel free to use non-prescription medications such as lozenges and ibuprofen* to reduce swelling in the meantime.

When to See a Doctor

Most mouth sores and irritations disappear within 14 days. But if your sore tongue and throat returns, or if it lasts longer than this period with no sign of clearing, make an appointment with your doctor. Alternatively, sore throats that are exceptionally severe or long-lasting might indicate a bacterial infection that requires antibiotic treatment, according to the NHS. You may also be a candidate for more comprehensive treatments for tonsillitis, swollen glands, or a thyroid condition.

Keep in mind that cancers of the head and neck can also cause symptoms such as a sore tongue and throat, but symptoms often persist beyond a few weeks despite treatment. They may also be accompanied by shortness of breath, trouble swallowing or earache, as explained in this article from the BBC.

With proper dental care and a good oral care routine, you can protect your teeth and tongue from basic health problems and deal with related concerns immediately when they arise.

*Always consult with a doctor before taking any medication.



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This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.