The tongue may be one of the most used and least thought about muscles in our bodies… until something goes wrong. Here are a few of the things that can cause changes in how the tongue looks and how it functions.
The tongue is a collection of muscles that are covered with mucous membrane. If you look at your tongue in a mirror, you will see small bumps all over the upper surface of the tongue. These bumps are called papillae. They help the tongue grip the food you eat to move it around in the mouth, which helps you chew and swallow. In between the papillae are the taste buds, which allow you taste. The tongue is also a key component in speech as it helps you form words.
The most common cause of tongue pain is trauma to the tongue. IF you bite your tongue, or eat something that is too hot, you may damage the papillae. Acidic foods such as orange juice and tomato sauce can make sore spots on the tongue hurt even more. Grinding the teeth or pushing the tip of the tongue against the back of the upper teeth can also cause tongue pain.
Tongue pain can also be a symptom of a condition that also affects other parts of your body:
• Severe anemia;
• Diabetes that is not controlled;
• Vitamin deficiency;
• Yeast infection;
• Oral Cancer;
• Mouth ulcers, including canker sores;
• Heavy smoking; and
• Severe dry mouth (xerostomia).
In order to treat tongue pain, your doctor or dentist will first need to determine what is causing the pain. Irritation from a bite or burn will normally heal in a few days. Try not to aggravate the condition by avoiding foods that are too hot or acidic while your tongue heals.
When clusters of the papillae or bumps on the tongue are missing, your tongue may take on a map-like or geographic appearance. This is known as geographic tongue. It causes irregularly shaped patches that are smooth and red, similar to the appearance of a rash. Geographic tongue is harmless and is not associated by an infection or by cancer. It is usually painless, but in some cases it may cause pain or sensitivity to some foods.