The cause of tongue ulcers, also known as canker sores, is unknown, but as of 2015, researchers believe there may be a genetic reason, according to WebMD. Tongue ulcers are not contagious, and they tend to appear when a person bites the lips, has braces or ingests acidic food such as orange juice.
The main symptom of a canker sore is the appearance of a shallow ulcer on the inside of the mouth, explains WebMD. The ulcer may be small or large, and it usually has a reddish edge with a light-colored center. These sores may produce a tingling or burning feeling, appear swollen or painful, and make it difficult to eat or speak. These sores typically heal in one to three weeks, but a large ulcer may last up to six weeks. Most of these sores heal without scarring.
Most mouth ulcers heal on their own without medical intervention, notes WebMD. Home treatment options are available, such as rinsing the mouth with salt water. An over-the-counter medication such as milk of magnesia or a pain-relieving gel can help to speed up the healing process. If there is a lot of pain with a mouth ulcer, a person may take a pain reliever such as aspirin, ibuprofen or naproxen. If the sore does not heal within two weeks with home treatment, the individual must see a doctor for further treatment.