What can your sore tongue tell your dentist?
If your tongue is sore, and there appears to be no good explanation (such as drinking something too hot or cutting it with something sharp), your dentist can be a good first line of defense in sorting out the cause. The cause can be triggered by dental issues or by other diseases (such as celiac disease or diabetes). Your sore tongue may simply get better with time – or it might be a sign of something very serious – like oral cancer.
Oral hygiene and the buildup of plaque can cause gum disease that can eventually result in a sore tongue. If you’ve not had a recent checkup, see your dentist as soon as you can. Problems with the teeth, fillings and gums need to be eliminated as a potential cause of your sore tongue. It can be a sign of advancing disease that could all-to-soon result in tooth loss. Your dentist can also perform a screening exam for oral cancer, which only takes a few minutes and is not painful. Discovering oral cancer early is very important!
Some people who unknowingly grind their teeth at night will develop a sore tongue. If this is the case with you, your dentist can likely spot other telltale signs – patterns of abnormal tooth wear – that indicate you are grinding your teeth. To help prevent abnormal tooth wear and tongue soreness, your dentist may recommend that you use a night guard for your teeth.
Help your dentist by providing other clues
A white tongue can be a symptom of various other conditions, such as a bacterial or fungal infection (thrush) that can cause tongue irritation and soreness. There’s a reason that your dentist’s office usually asks about changes to medications or your physical health with each regular visit. Significant changes to your health and treatment plans (such as diabetes, chemotherapy, or even a recent round of antibiotics) are potential causes for a sore tongue. There may be a relatively simple explanation. Your dentist can help you understand whether it’s something that is likely to resolve on its own or whether it is best to consult some other type of medical specialist.
If you have a sore tongue, it’s also helpful to tell your dentist about things as simple as changes in your dietary habits or dental hygiene. Certain type of vitamin deficiencies can result in a sore tongue. Also be prepared to report recent changes in products that you use for oral healthcare (toothpaste, mouthwash, whitening agents).
Don’t wait too long!
If your problem is exceptionally painful or persists for longer than two weeks, it’s time to take action and make sure that any serious issue receives appropriate attention. Contact your dentist to eliminate dental causes as the issue or to help you determine what type of medical professional to consult. Remember, with the availability of sedation dentistry, there’s no longer a good excuse for anyone to avoid having regular dental checkups!