How Does Acid Reflux Affect The Tongue?

How Does Acid Reflux Affect The Tongue?

How Does Acid Reflux Affect The Tongue?Acid reflux refers to the backflow of gastric content-stomach acid, bile, or food from the stomach into the esophagus through a weak spot or tears in the wall that separates these organs.

It is primarily caused by decreased lower esophageal sphincter pressure (LESP) and is typically improved with medications such as H2 blockers and proton pump inhibitors. The subsequent effects can be further exacerbated if a common symptom for gastric reflux sufferers is heartburn.

How Does Acid Reflux Affect the Tongue?

The tongues of acid reflux sufferers can be affected in various ways.

  1. Tongue damage due to heartburn
    Stomach acid is highly corrosive. However, in most cases, the esophagus can neutralize this substance due to its alkalinity. Unfortunately, poor diet, smoking, and obesity can cause an imbalance in stomach acids, leading to heartburn or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). Heartburn has been known to cause severe tongue damage and result in a long-term burning sensation of the tongue.
  2. White patches on the tongue
    White patches are not exclusive to acid reflux sufferers and can be caused by various factors. Smoking and poor dental hygiene are responsible for most cases of white tongue, but this condition is also associated with gastric reflux disease. The main symptom exhibited by those suffering from white patches on the tongue is a sensation of a dry mouth that seems to be unassociated with how much water one drinks.
  3. Uvulitis
    Uvulitis, or inflammation of the uvula, is primarily caused by vocal abuse. The overuse of the tongue and its associated muscles can cause damage to the soft tissue of this part of the mouth which can result in ulceration and bleeding. The redness caused by uvulitis often results in white patches on the tongue due to an area of poorly regenerated tissue.
  4. Tonsillitis
    Tonsillitis is a common condition that results from swelling and inflammation of the tonsils, two glands located at the back of the throat. Tonsillitis can be caused by various factors, including overuse of one’s voice, poor hygiene, and even acid reflux. The cause is generally attributed to bacteria or viruses such as strep throat, and tonsillitis can result in a white tongue in addition to fever, sore throat, body aches, and swollen lymph nodes.


Treating acid reflux on the tongue can be done in various ways.

  1. Tobacco and alcohol avoidance
    Both nicotine and alcohol consumption can cause or contribute to several oral and dental health issues, including white spots on the tongue, dry mouth, and bad breath. Smoking is known to increase stomach acid production, while alcohol acts as a diuretic, leading to dehydration.
  2. Diet modification
    Poor dietary habits such as poor nutrition and high caffeine consumption can lead to acid reflux, white patches on the tongue, frequent dry mouth, and halitosis. Acid reflux sufferers should avoid highly acidic foods such as oranges, grapefruits, lemons, and pineapple.
  3. Proper dental hygiene
    A good oral hygiene routine is essential for acid reflux sufferers who suffer from white patches on their tongues. Brushing the tongue and flossing at least twice a day can prevent the buildup of bacteria and food, leading to white patches on the tongue.
  4. Medication
    Many acid reflux sufferers must take medications such as H2 blockers or proton pump inhibitors to treat their condition. H2 blockers prevent stomach acid by blocking its production, while proton pump inhibitors inhibit the enzymes that produce stomach acid.
  5. Medications for uvulitis and tonsillitis
    Medications for uvulitis and tonsillitis can treat and even prevent white patches on the tongue caused by acid reflux. ENT doctor may recommend an antibacterial or anti-viral medication to help treat white patches on the tongue due to uvulitis or tonsillitis. Acid reflux doctors can treat heartburn treatments, and white patches on the tongue are all common conditions experienced by those who suffer from acid reflux. Acid reflux information can help patients understand their disease and treatment options.

Head & Neck Cancer

Head & Neck Cancer is a term used to describe a number of different malignant tumors that develop in or around the throat, larynx, nose, sinuses, and mouth.

Most head and neck cancers are squamous cell carcinomas, meaning they begin in the flat, squamous cells that make up the thin surface layer of the structures in the head and neck. Directly beneath this lining, which is called the epithelium, some areas of the head and neck have a layer of moist tissue, called the mucosa. If a cancer is limited to the squamous layer of cells, it is called carcinoma in situ. If the cancer has grown beyond this cell layer and moved into the deeper tissue, then it is called invasive squamous cell carcinoma.

Types of Head & Neck Cancer

There are five main types of head and neck cancer, each named according to the part of the body where they develop.   For more information, including signs and symptoms about each different form of  head and neck cancers listed below, click on the links below to read more on

Laryngeal and Hypopharyngeal Cancer. The larynx is commonly called the voice box. It is a tube-shaped organ in the neck that is important for breathing, talking, and swallowing. It is located at the top of the windpipe, or trachea. The hypopharynx is also called the gullet. It is the lower part of the throat that surrounds the larynx.

Nasal Cavity and Paranasal Sinus Cancer. The nasal cavity is the space just behind the nose where air passes on the way to the throat. The paranasal sinuses are the air-filled areas that surround the nasal cavity.

Nasopharyngeal Cancer. The nasopharynx is the air passageway at the upper part of the throat behind the nose.

Oral and Oropharyngeal Cancer. The oral cavity includes the mouth and tongue. The oropharynx includes the middle of the throat from the tonsils to the tip of the voice box.

Salivary Gland Cancer. The salivary gland is tissue that produces saliva, which is the fluid that is released into the mouth to keep it moist and that contains enzymes that begin breaking down food.

Information above provided by & approved by the Cancer.Net Editorial Board06/2014

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