Tongue Ulcers

Facts about Tongue Ulcers

The human tongue is rarely at rest as it assists with speaking, eating and swallowing; an active nature such as this makes it very uncomfortable when tongue ulcers erupt.  Perhaps more recognizably known as a canker sore, this condition is disruptive during its brief, yet painful, duration.

Anatomy of the tongue

Composed primarily of muscle groups, the tongue is vital in many functions.  The organ is secured to the base of the mouth with a thin layer of tissue called the frenulum.  Underneath, the tongue is smooth and pink.  It is the upper tongue and the sides of the tongue that contain the ability to sense tastes such as sweet, salty, sour, bitter and umami, or savory flavors.  The flavors are detected through taste buds that are located through the mouth but mainly on the surface of the tongue.  Covering the sides and the top of the tongue are tiny bumps called papillae, which assist in moving food around in the mouth while we chew.  These bumps are also where the taste buds reside, so as the foods we eat move about in the mouth, we are able to detect their flavors.

How ulcers form

Humans may be one of the few creatures that eat and drink for enjoyment rather than strictly for need.  Unfortunately, we sometimes eat and drink substances that can cause injury to the inside of our mouths, especially the tongue.  Coffee, tea and hot chocolate are beverages that are meant to be prepared and consumed hot, as are most of the foods that we eat.  However, putting them into the mouth before they cool off sufficiently can scald the sensitive papillae.  In addition, foods that are seasoned with spicy or hot seasonings are common favorites with many people, but wreak havoc upon the tongue.  The appearance of these sores can also be due to a simple episode of accidentally biting your tongue, or by piercing the organ with a sharp food such as potato chips.  Citrus fruits are also a known to irritate the inside of the mouth, including the tongue, to the extent of causing sores. Even emotional stress or anxiety can cause the onset of canker sores.  One of the most frequently seen conditions affecting the tongue is something called the apthous ulcer.

People who hear the word “ulcer” often automatically think about those which occur in the stomach or duodenum.  However, an ulcer, which is simply a sore or lesion that develops on skin tissue, can occur anywhere on the body.  On the tongue, the effects of an ulcer are felt immediately due to the high activity level of the organ.  Whether they occur on the top, side or bottom of the tongue, contact and friction will inevitably cause irritation and pain as the tongue moves food, beverages or even just saliva around in the mouth and toward the throat.

Symptoms of tongue ulcers

The first sign that an ulcer is beginning to develop may be a burning sensation on the tongue.  A whitish patch or reddened area will appear, and the spot will be extremely painful for two to three days before it begins to recede.  Fortunately, they heal quickly and without aid.  Rinsing the mouth with warm salt water or a solution of warm water and hydrogen peroxide proves to be helpful in healing and decrease discomfort.

The human tongue is constantly in motion as we eat, drink, speak and swallow and is rarely noticed when all is well with the organ.  When tongue ulcers develop, however, it is suddenly noticed how much the tongue actually does because of the pain that is felt during its natural tasks.  Fortunately, the sores are most often non-threatening to health and heal quickly on their own; leaving the tongue to go about its normal tasks in its own unnoticeable manner.