A sore or white tongue is not usually serious and is often easily treated.
Things you can do if you have a sore or white tongue
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
A pharmacist can help with sore or white tongue
You can ask a pharmacist about:
- 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
Non-urgent advice: See a GP or dentist if:
- you have tongue pain or itchiness that does not go away or gets worse
- you have white patches on your tongue
Common causes of a sore or white tongue
Biting or burning your tongue with hot food or drink can cause pain and swelling. This should only last a few days.
A white tongue can be a sign of a health condition, such as lichen planus, leukoplakia, geographic tongue, mouth ulcers or oral thrush.
But do not self-diagnose. See a GP if you're worried.
Read about lichen planus.
Read about leukoplakia.
Find out more about geographic tongue on the Oral Health Foundation website
Read about mouth ulcers.
Read about oral thrush.
Page last reviewed: 02 June 2020
Next review due: 02 June 2023