13 Diseases of the Tongue you Should Know

Diseases of the Tongue

Last Updated on: 21st May 2024, 09:02 am

Thrush, candidiasis, a fissured tongue, a hairy tongue, and glossitis can affect overall health since the tongue is involved in vital aspects of daily life, such as food consumption and speech with other people. What are the warning signs? What are the common diseases of the tongue?A color change is one sign. Other clues may be experiencing pain when eating or noticing lumps or bumps on the tongue.


Types of Diseases of the Tongue

tongue disease

The health of the tongue can be affected by different diseases. Some can be benign conditions while others require more attention. Here is information on 13 health conditions that can affect the tongue:

    • Cold sores: These ulcers develop on the tongue and other soft tissues in the mouth. Stress affects its appearance as well. Usually, heal without treatment in a week or two.
    • Candidiasis oral: This is an infection caused by the candida fungus that grows inside the mouth. It manifests as white patches on the tongue and inside the cheeks that may appear creamy. This infection is common in infants and older adults who have dentures in people receiving antibiotic treatment or those who have a weak immune system.
    • Oral cancer: Oral cancer is the abnormal growth of cells on the tongue. It occurs more often in men over the age of 40 and is five times more likely to occur in people who smoke. The most common symptom is a red, pink, or grayish bump on the tongue. There may be difficulty eating, ear pain, and throat discomfort.
    • Scarlet fever: This infection of the tongue produces red bumps and possibly a fever. It manifests in both children and adults. If you have both symptoms (bumps and a fever) you should consult your doctor immediately. Generally, is successfully treated with antibiotics.
    • Glossitis: This inflammation can be caused by the consumption of spicy foods that engender subsequent irritation, alcoholic beverages, or excessive use of tobacco. It can also originate from bacterial or viral infections. It produces a change in the color of the tongue and causes a burning sensation.
    • Fissured tongue: If the tongue shows cracks at the top, known as a scrotal tongue or split (fissured) tongue. On some occasions, it causes discomfort and is generally accompanied by bad breath.
    • Geographical tongue: This is a condition that often has no symptoms. Reddish spots appear on the tongue that has the appearance of a map.
    • Black hairy tongue: When taste buds overgrow, they facilitate bacteria growth that produces a dark or black appearance. The overgrown papillae resemble hairs. Although it is not a common disease, people who have received treatment with antibiotics or chemotherapy, and those who have been diagnosed with diabetes, may present a black and hairy tongue. It is also frequent in people who do not practice good oral hygiene habits. Excessive consumption of coffee or the use of mouthwashes with antioxidant components can cause a hairy tongue.
    • Red tongue: This is a symptom that stems from a lack of vitamin B (folic acid) or vitamin B-12 (cobalamin). A blood test allows the dentist to reach the corresponding diagnosis.
    • Leukoplakia: This condition is the excessive growth of cells in the mouth. The disease manifests with white spots on the tongue and inside the mouth. It is common in those who use tobacco and may be a precursor to oral cancer. If the symptoms indicate the possibility of leukoplakia, a dentist should be consulted.
    • Oral lichen planus: This condition has raised white or red lines on the tongue, giving the appearance of lace, as well as bumps and sores, which cause pain or a burning sensation. It is common in middle-aged women and people with hepatitis C.


Transient Lingual Papillitis

diseases of the tongue
diseases in tongue

The temporary inflammation of the papillae located in the front part of the tongue may show white or yellow bumps all over the tongue. This disease can be a consequence of an infection, stress, or pre-existing health conditions along with eating acidic foods or smoking. Tongue papillitis can be:

    • Localized: affects only the tongue.
    • Eruptive: affects the tongue and causes swelling in the lymph nodes. It is more common in children.
    • Papulokeratotic: causes painless yellow and white bumps.
    • Rinsing the mouth with salt water, avoiding spicy foods, and very hot food/drinks all contribute to overcoming this condition.

Burning Mouth Syndrome

It generates a burning sensation on the tongue and other parts of the mouth. The condition could be caused by neurological damage, allergies, nutritional deficiencies, or hormonal changes.



Diseases of the tongue can be annoying and uncomfortable. The causes can be endless, and the pain along with other symptoms may disappear on its own in a short time. However, it is always advisable to have a proper diagnosis by a dentist or specialist. Appropriate treatment with over-the-counter or prescribed medications or other procedures may guarantee successful recovery and a decrease in pain.


Contact us

If you have any questions about this or other topics, you can contact us at Channel Islands Family Dental as well as our page on Facebook. We look forward to your visit and we will make a timely diagnosis. Our dentists in  Oxnard, Santa Paula, VenturaNewbury Park, and  Port Hueneme will be able to guide you toward the best treatment to take care of your health and give you back your best smile.



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