Sore or white tongue

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

Things you can do yourself


  • 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

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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

Find a pharmacy

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When to get medical help

See a GP or dentist if you:

  • have pain or itchiness that does not go away or gets worse
  • have white patches on your tongue

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Common causes of a sore or white tongue

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

Read about lichen planus.


Read about leukoplakia.

Geographic tongue

Read about geographic tongue.

Mouth ulcer

Read about mouth ulcers.

Oral thrush

Read about oral thrush.

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