The tongue is an accessory digestive organ which, together with cheeks, keeps food between the upper and lower teeth until it is sufficiently chewed. The tongue is also a sensitive organ that helps to detect taste, and respond to pressure, heat and pain.
When a person experiences pain, sores or blisters on the tongue, it could be a result of several factors. For instance, blisters can be caused by tongue-biting, which can occur during the process of chewing food, or it can happen as a result of burns from consuming hot foods and liquids.
Josephine Lanyero, a clinician at Choice Medical Centre in Wabigalo, a Kampala suburb, explains that some tongue blisters may result from food allergens.
Poor oral hygiene can also contribute to tongue sores or blisters. “Food particles that collect in the mouth, especially on the teeth and gum allow bacteria to grow, which irritates the flesh on the tongue and mouth,” Lanyero says.
Dr Jeremiah Baraze, of Saviour Medical Centre in Namuwongo, a Kampala suburb further explains that wounds on the tongue can be prompted by oral thrust.
“Oral thrust is a yeast infection in the mouth, caused by a type of fungus. This leads to unpleasant taste, soreness, a burning sensation on the tongue and difficulty in swallowing,” says Dr Baraze. Oral thrust is common among people who are on medication, especially those taking inhaled steroids. Sores can also result from poor oral hygiene, smoking, or a weakened immune system.
Dr Baraze says illnesses such as malaria, HIV/Aids and fungal infections, including ringworms can affect the internal body organs and weaken the body immunity, thereby predisposing the tongue and other body parts to sores.
Dr Sam Thembo of Community Clinic and Laboratory in Wabigalo notes that infections such as tuberculosis (TB) have also been found to be responsible for causing ulcers on the tongue. This form of ulcer usually does not heal immediately, sometimes lasting up to three months.
Dr Thembo explains that tongue sores typically heal without treatment, and can be managed through simple home remedies such as cleaning or rinsing the mouth with warm salty water, at least four times a day.
Eating foods such as bananas, apples, rice, carrots and consuming dairy products including milk can relieve the mouth and tongue of sores.
“Good oral hygiene is important because it helps to get rid of irritants and excess bacteria,” says Dr Thembo.
He adds that hot foods contain acids that may irritate the tongue, and should therefore be avoided.
According to Lanyero, tongue sores can be avoided by minimising predisposing factors such as smoking and maintaining good oral hygiene, by brushing teeth after every meal. Maintaining a good diet that comprises of fruits and vegetables can also be crucial in preventing frequent occurrence of tongue sores.
Other ways of getting rid of the sores include placing a wet tea bag on the affected area. Tea contains a component known as tannin, which also acts as pain relief.