Dentistry
Cosmetic
Product Reviews
NewMouth is reader supported. We may earn a commission if you purchase something using one of our links. Advertising Disclosure.

Itchy Tongue: Causes, Symptoms, Treatment & Prevention

Updated on July 29, 2022
Khushbu Gopalakrishnan Headshot
Written by Alyssa Hill
Medically Reviewed by Khushbu Gopalakrishnan

Why is My Tongue Itchy?

An itchy tongue can feel uncomfortable and even painful. While most itchy tongues are harmless and caused by common oral allergies, other causes behind an itchy tongue can be more serious. 

Some people experience an itchy tongue for long periods, while others feel the sensation come and go. Understanding your symptoms can help you find the root cause and get relief fast. 

6 Potential Causes of an Itchy Tongue

There are several common reasons you may feel an itchy sensation on your tongue or in your mouth. These include:

1. Allergies or Food Sensitivities

Allergies can be a relatively harmless yet frustrating cause of oral itching. Oral allergy syndrome (OAS), also known as pollen food syndrome, is an allergic reaction to eating certain foods. 

People with OAS experience an immune response when eating fresh or raw nuts, fruits, and vegetables. This response can be due to surface birch, alder, and ragweed pollen.

In some people, proteins found in nuts, fruits, and vegetables that are similar to allergy-causing proteins in pollen trigger an OAS response. 

Similarly, airborne tree pollen and other seasonal allergies can cause oral allergy symptoms similar to that of OAS.

These tingly and itchy reactions are often limited to the lips, tongue, and throat. 

Other Symptoms

Some allergic reactions can cause hives, rashes, bumps, and welts. A more severe allergic reaction could result in tongue and throat swelling.

Treatment

Avoiding trigger foods can help you avoid OAS and an itchy tongue or mouth. In addition, antihistamines can help relieve symptoms of oral food allergies and seasonal allergies. 

2. Dry Mouth

Experiencing a dry mouth occasionally is a familiar feeling to most people. However, you may have xerostomia if you deal with dry mouth chronically. Xerostomia is dry mouth that can be caused by: 

  • Not drinking enough water
  • Dry weather
  • Sleeping with your mouth open
  • Consuming too much dry food
  • Taking certain medications 

When your mouth lacks lubricant due to xerostomia, it is possible to experience burning mouth syndrome, which can make your mouth feel scratchy or itchy.

Other Symptoms

Other common symptoms of xerostomia and dry mouth include:

  • Problems speaking because of a lack of saliva
  • Trouble swallowing
  • Raw and irritated oral tissue
  • A filmy buildup in your mouth
  • Lack of lubrication around and inside mouth

Treatment

Your dentist can help you manage xerostomia symptoms. In addition, sipping water frequently and chewing sugar-free gum to increase saliva production may help.

3. Oral Thrush

Oral thrush is a yeast infection common in infants and people with a weakened immune system. This fungal infection causes the overproduction of candida, a fungus that lives in our mouths. Candida infections are common and usually mild.

Other Symptoms

Oral thrush can cause dry or cracked skin in the corners of the mouth. In addition, thrush often produces a white coating on the tongue, which can lead to raw and burning of the tissue when disturbed. 

Treatment

Good hygiene is essential for eliminating oral thrush. For babies, ensure you clean their mouth and tongue properly between each feeding. 

Professional medical advice or prescription probiotics or steroids may be necessary if your symptoms don’t reduce.  

4. Trauma or Injury

When your tongue is injured, it can feel incredibly tender and painful. Moreover, it’s common to feel itchy sensations around the damaged part of your tongue, similar to that experienced with paper cuts. 

Other Symptoms

You may have an itchy mouth if you have an injury on your tongue. You may also experience bleeding, swelling, and throbbing. In severe cases, tongue trauma or injury may cause a fever. 

Treatment

Following standard first aid practices (pain medications, stitches, and antibiotics) can help when handling a tongue injury. Avoid spicy and hot foods while your tongue recovers.

5. Cold Sores

A cold sore, caused by the herpes simplex virus, starts with a recognizable tingling sensation on the lips, mouth, or tongue before the blister begins to form. Cold sores are a strain of the herpes virus similar to chicken pox, which is highly contagious through skin-to-skin contact. 

The tingling sensation from herpes can cause an itchy tongue or itchy mouth throughout the progression of the disease process. 

Other Symptoms

Other cold sore symptoms include:

  • Fever
  • Oozing and crusting blisters
  • Irritated gums
  • Headache
  • Sore muscles
  • Sore throat
  • Swollen glands and lymph nodes

Treatment

Prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, and creams can treat cold sore blisters. In addition, ice, aloe vera gel, vitamins such as lysine, tea tree oil, and other at-home remedies can quicken the healing process.

6. Canker Sores

Canker sores, also known as mouth ulcers, are painful small bumps found on the inside walls of the mouth and the tongue. They are usually white or yellow and may have a red or pink border.

Other Symptoms

Like cold sores, canker sores tingle and burn a few days before the sores appear. Canker sores are common and harmless but can cause discomfort to the tongue or mouth. 

Treatment

Canker sores often go away independently without much intervention over a few days. However, gargling with lukewarm salt water may help them heal faster.

Home Remedies for Itchy Tongue 

There are many natural ways to treat your itchy mouth and tongue from home:

  • Coconut oil has natural antiviral and antibacterial properties that can reduce the feeling of an itchy tongue 
  • Over-the-counter antihistamines can help reduce swelling and irritation
  • Aloe vera can soothe scrapes and burns
  • Saltwater rinses or gargles can reduce swelling, itching, and inflammation
  • Honey may help heal an itchy or injured tongue
  • Elimination diets, or eliminating foods and slowly reincorporating them, can help you understand what foods cause your tongue to itch

When to Seek Medical Attention 

If you experience difficulty breathing, develop hives or facial swelling, or your heart rate increases from your irritated tongue, seek medical attention ASAP. These symptoms could indicate a life-threatening condition. 

Itchy Tongue Prevention 

Prevention is the best way to avoid an itchy mouth and tongue. 

Eliminate certain foods from your diet that may be causing an allergic reaction. Also, keep up with your oral hygiene and clean your tongue with a tongue scraper. Avoid alcohol-based mouthwashes that can dry out your mouth and cause a burning sensation.

Summary

An itchy tongue can be frustrating if you're experiencing food allergies, oral thrush, a fungal infection, cold sores, dry mouth, or trauma. Although uncommon, a tingling and itchy tongue can sometimes be more severe and require medical attention. 

At-home remedies, talking with a professional, and avoiding triggers can help heal your tongue quickly and prevent the condition from recurring.

Last updated on July 29, 2022
6 Sources Cited
Last updated on July 29, 2022
All NewMouth content is medically reviewed and fact-checked by a licensed dentist or orthodontist to ensure the information is factual, current, and relevant.

We have strict sourcing guidelines and only cite from current scientific research, such as scholarly articles, dentistry textbooks, government agencies, and medical journals. This also includes information provided by the American Dental Association (ADA), the American Association of Orthodontics (AAO), and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).
  1. Kashyap RR, Kashyap RS. Oral Allergy Syndrome: An Update for Stomatologists. J Allergy (Cairo). Epub Nov. 8 2015. 
  2. Villa A, Connell CL, Abati S. Diagnosis and management of xerostomia and hyposalivation. Ther Clin Risk Manag. Dec. 22, 2014.
  3. Singh A, Verma R, Murari A, Agrawal A. Oral candidiasis: An overview. J Oral Maxillofac Pathol. Sept. 18, 2014.
  4. Das UM, Gadicherla P. Lacerated tongue injury in children. Int J Clin Pediatr Dent. Sept. 1, 2018.
  5. Chi CC, Wang SH, Delamere FM, Wojnarowska F, Peters MC, Kanjirath PP. Interventions for prevention of herpes simplex labialis (cold sores on the lips). Cochrane Database Syst Rev. Aug. 7, 2015
  6. Dudding, T., Haworth, S., Lind, P.A. et al. Genome wide analysis for mouth ulcers identifies associations at immune regulatory loci. Nat Commun 10, 105. Mar. 5, 2019.
linkedin facebook pinterest youtube rss twitter instagram facebook-blank rss-blank linkedin-blank pinterest youtube twitter instagram