Benign Tongue Lesions: Causes and Treatment

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About Tongue Lesions

Benign tongue lesions are characterized by the formation of ulcers, sores or patches on various areas of the tongue. While these are not usually fatal, these can sometimes become severe and result in bleeding. These lesions in the tongue may also cause a lot of pain in affected individuals. There are many causes of tongue lesions. Fortunately, there are also several treatment options available.


The tongue is often exposed to several irritants that come in the form of food, drinks and smoke. For instance, excessive alcohol intake and smoking as well as intake of very hot coffee or tea can cause tongue irritation. Biting of the tongue may also lead to tongue injury. Canker sores, commonly caused by viruses, may suddenly appear on the tongue or any areas inside the mouth. Other causes of benign lesions of the tongue are stress, hormonal imbalance, malnutrition, food allergy, poor dental habits and use of ill-fitting devices such as dentures, mouth guards and braces.


These benign ulcers can be treated in numerous ways. Primary treatment is often directed toward the cause of the lesions. Cancer sores usually resolve on their own, as they are mostly caused by viruses. Pain medications may also be given for pain relief.

It also helps to avoid possible irritants such as tobacco as well as spicy, acidic and irritating foods. Hard foods which can further cause pain must also be avoided. It is also important to maintain good dental hygiene and to consult a dentist if the lesions are due to ill fitting dentures and braces.

Home remedies may work in some individuals, such as the application of glycerin on the affected part of the tongue.

Commercially available mouthwashes containing carbamide peroxide may also help relieve the irritation. Other topical rinses which may be used are 2% lidocaine and milk of magnesia.

Once the underlying factors which are causing the lesions have been addressed, significant improvement may usually be felt within a week.

Persistent Lesions

It is recommended that medical consultation be done for ulcers that do not heal in two to three weeks time. Suspicious tongue lesions that appear wart-like and those that have pigmentation or changes in color, may also need to be evaluated. Patients’s tongue are usually examined and blood tests may be performed to help in the diagnosis. Medications may then be prescribed, depending on the specific cause of the tongue lesion. At times, the diet of the patient will also have to be adjusted. In some severe cases, aggressive therapies may have to be recommended as treatment interventions. Taking tissue samples from the tongue may also be done in suspicious lesions to detect the presence of cancer cells.


MedlinePlus: Tongue Problems

Brookside Associate: Operational Medicine 2001 Tongue Lesions