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Sore or white tongue

A sore or white tongue is not usually serious and is often easily treated.


  • use a soft toothbrush to brush your teeth

  • brush your tongue or use a scraper to help improve a white tongue

  • use a straw to drink cool drinks

  • take paracetamol or ibuprofen


  • do not use a toothpaste that contains sodium lauryl sulphate

  • do not eat hard, spicy, salty, acidic or hot food and drink that may irritate your tongue

  • do not smoke

  • do not drink alcohol

  • what's causing your sore or white tongue
  • if you can buy anything to help with any pain or irritation
  • if you should see a dentist or GP

Biting or burning your tongue with hot food or drink can cause pain and swelling. But this should only last a few days.

A white tongue can be a sign of a health condition.

Do not self-diagnose – see a GP if you're worried.

Lichen planus

Open mouth showing bottom row of teeth, with white patches on the tongue and inside the cheek

Read about lichen planus.

Read about leukoplakia.

Pink tongue with patches of white poking out of mouth

Read about geographic tongue.

Mouth ulcer

White/grey round sore on the side of a tongue poking out of mouth

Read about mouth ulcers.

Tongue with solid white patch from the middle to the back

Read about oral thrush.