What are tongue ulcers?

Tongue ulcers are open sores or cuts on the tongue. Tongue ulcers can be painful and raw and can be irritated by eating and drinking. One of the most common types of tongue ulcers is the canker sore, which may arise for an unknown reason or be linked to a number of different irritants.

Tongue ulcers arise from a variety of conditions, including viral infection, injury to the tongue, or even oral cancer. Treating the underlying cause of tongue ulcers may help to resolve the sores. In mild cases, over-the-counter treatments may help to alleviate the pain of tongue ulcers. In some cases, improving oral hygiene will cause tongue ulcers to resolve.

If left untreated, tongue ulcers may lead to complications, such as secondary infection or the spread of oral cancer to other parts of the body. If tongue ulcers arise from an infection that is not treated, the infection could be spread to other individuals.

Seek immediate medical care (call 911) for serious symptoms related to tongue ulcers, such as high fever (higher than 101 degrees Fahrenheit) or sudden swelling of the tongue or throat structures. These may be signs of a severe infection.

If your tongue ulcers are persistent, cannot be explained by tongue biting, or cause you concern, seek prompt medical care, as this may be a sign of infection or a serious condition, such as oral cancer.


What other symptoms might occur with tongue ulcers?

Tongue ulcers may accompany other symptoms, which vary depending on the underlying disease, disorder or condition.

Oral symptoms that may occur along with tongue ulcers

Tongue ulcers may accompany other symptoms affecting the mouth including:


What causes tongue ulcers?

Tongue ulcers are generally the result of injury to the tongue, such as from biting, or a viral infection. Common tongue ulcers include canker sores.

Infectious causes of tongue ulcers

Tongue ulcers may be caused by various types of infections including:

  • Canker sores
  • Gingivostomatitis (a viral or bacterial mouth infection)
  • Read more about tongue ulcerscauses

Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS Last Annual Review Date: Sep 20, 2013 Copyright: © Copyright 2014 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Health Grades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the HealthGrades User Agreement.

This Article is Filed Under: Mouth, Teeth and Oral Health