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Julian Chen
Julian Chen, Dentist
Category: Dental
Satisfied Customers: 568
Experience:  Practicing General Dentist since 2002
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hello. My tongue feels swollen and is sore against my teeth

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hello. My tongue feels swollen and is sore against my teeth on the sides. It FEELS swollen.. but it doesn't LOOK it.
In fact estethically it looks fine, maybe just slightly whiter than usual.
I have been experiencing this for over a week and I have been drinking a lot of liquids to see if it could help, but it isn't.
Extra info: I am 25 female. Just back in UK from a trip in Zimbabwe and therefore taking malaria tablets (Lariam).
thank you for your help.

It is quite possible that the sensation you're currently feeling is a result of teeth grinding at night (bruxism). If you've been under elevated stress, and/or getting insufficient sleep, then oftentimes, your body will respond negatively. For most people, the immune system becomes weaker, they fall ill more easily, stress level increases, and for some unknown reason, patients tend to grind their teeth in their sleep.

And the poor tongue oftentimes becomes the unfortunate victim, being partially chewed upon by the grinding teeth. The lateral surfaces (sides) of the tongue oftentimes will appear to have white ripples along the length of the tongue. And naturally, the tongue would feel like its swollen, or experience a slight burning sensation along with a slight loss of taste.

The good thing is (assuming that you're not a habitual teeth grinder) there's nothing that needs to be done. Get enough rest, try and reduce your stress levels and most of the time, patient will stop grinding their teeth during their sleep. However, if this persists for another 3-4 weeks, and we're able to link this specifically to teeth grinding, then you may have to get a custom nightguard fitted. The nightguard won't prevent you from grinding, but it will offer a smoother surface for the opposing teeth to glide upon, and there's less chance for your tongue to get caught between the nightguard and your teeth.

It will usually take a few days for the tongue to fully recover (after you've stopped grinding) so don't expect to feel completely better overnight.


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Customer: replied 8 years ago.
seem plausible.. I have been getting little sleep, I am realising as I am answering, that the tip of the tongue and the centre/forward part of the tongue has a burning sensation, feels very sensitive. Could that be realated, too?
It is certainly possible that the tip of your tongue is irritated from recent teeth grinding as well. If there is a large enough gap for your tongue to slide between your teeth, regardless of being on the side or the front, it's bound to get chewed.

If there's no visible swelling, then I would not be too concerned. Try and get some quality rest first, and see if the symptoms go away within the next 3-5 days. If yes, then it's most likely from the grinding. If not, and/or if symptoms worsen, then I would then go see your dentist for an evaluation/consultation.


Customer: replied 8 years ago.
one more thing, though. It is now the end of the day. This feeling grew stronger during the day and I know for a fact that by day I am not grinding my teeth.. anyhow, i will get some sleep now and i'll see what happens in a couple of days, thank you :)
If the discomfort is in fact due to teeth grinding, it won't mean that just because you stopped grinding (during the day) that the tongue will instantly feel better. The damage was already done during the sleep and throughout the day, the tongue can continue to feel irritated. The nerve endings can continue to fire impulses.

You can look at it like a cut on your arm. If you leave the cut completely alone, then most likely, you won't elicit any additional pain.

However, if you constantly rub against that cut by wearing with a long sleeve shirt, then the cut can feel more irritated and painful, despite not re-injuring the cut.

Unfortunately, your tongue is constantly in motion. It's used for speech, and it's constantly moving around in the mouth.

I would wait until the morning to see if the symptoms have improved or not. Hopefully you'll have gotten a good night's rest now that you're back home, and that your tongue feels better tomorrow.



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