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Causes for Ulcers on the Tongue

author image Vaishali Mehta
Vaishali Mehta is a doctor by profession and has a master's degree in otolaryngology from India. She has clinical experience in the field of ENT. She has a passion for medical writing and has written stacks of research articles. She likes to write for health, fitness and nutrition, and otolaryngology-related topics.
Causes for Ulcers on the Tongue
Spicy and hot food can result in ulcers on the tongue. Photo Credit: Christopher Robbins/Stockbyte/Getty Images

Ulcers on the tongue, or Aphthous ulcers, are white colored patches or lesions seen in the mouth. According to University of Pittsburgh, about 20 percent of all Americans encounter it at any given time. Multiple causes like stress, trauma to the oral mucosa and spicy food have been suggested as causes for ulcers on the tongue.

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Dietary Causes

Eating excessive hot, spicy and acidic food and consumption of citrus fruits can cause ulcers on the tongue. Taking very hot beverages like tea and coffee can also cause burns that turn into ulcers. Eating food irregularly, nutritional deficiencies and low levels of vitamin B12, folic acid and iron can also result in ulceration. Food allergies to chocolate, strawberry, eggs, cheese, coffee and nuts, can also precipitate ulcers on the tongue.


Sharp tooth, injury to the tongue due to braces and dentures are common causes of tongue ulcers. Trauma due to an improper use of toothbrush or brushing vigorously can damage the tongue and result in ulcers in the tongue and mouth. The toothbrush should be replaced when the bristles become hard and if the ulcers recur after brushing. Accidentally biting the tongue and the physical trauma of sharp foods can lead to tongue ulcers.


Ulcers on the tongue are commonly seen in students during the times of exams. Stress triggers eruption of ulcers in the tongue. Individuals under stress and with weakened immune system are susceptible. The tissues of the tongue become susceptible to bacteria and cause ulcers. Poor sleep also weakens the body’s immunity and makes the tongue more prone to ulceration.

Tongue Cancer

Smoking and alcohol consumption predispose to aphthous ulcers. If an ulcer takes a very long time to heal, it may be due to an underlying serious cause. Cancer of the tongue can manifest as a non-healing ulcer of the tongue. This is especially seen with smokers and alcoholics, and poor dental hygiene predispose to it, as the Baylor College of Medicine reports.

Other Causes

Changing hormonal levels seen in menstruation, certain medications and diseases like tuberculosis and syphilis can result in tongue ulcers. Aphthous ulcers on cheeks, tongue and lips are seen in diseases like ulcerative colitis and Crohns disease. Having a stomach ulcer can also result in a tongue ulcer. HIV suppresses the immune system and multiple recurrent aphthous ulcers are seen in HIV according to mayo clinic. Behcets disease results in inflammation in the eye and ulcers in the tongue and genitals.

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