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Why Your Tongue Feels Like Sandpaper: Causes and Remedies

Covering his mouth because his tongue feels like sandpaper

When you imagine a dream-like kiss, you probably think of soft lips, a warm embrace, and the scent of a fruity perfume. What doesn’t likely come to mind is a rough, sandpaper-like tongue scraping against the inside of your mouth, or even worse, your tongue scraping hers!

That’s certainly an efficient way to kill off any attraction she may have had for you. If this is a common scenario for you, you may be thinking why your tongue feels like sandpaper.

If you’ve ever had a dry tongue, or are experiencing one right now, it can be pretty alarming and come with some nasty additional dilemmas. Bad breath, throat hoarseness, difficulty swallowing, and other issues can become quite a bane during your day-to-day life, especially when on a date.

When your tongue feels like sandpaper, it’s generally due to dehydration, so it’s paramount to get some water intake. However, sometimes, a more serious underlying condition can be the culprit. We’ll look at a few possible causes for your rough tongue, what you can do to resolve it, and why it’s a bigger issue than it may initially seem.

Why Does My Tongue Feel Like Sandpaper?

If you’ve ever wondered how to get a date, one of the most important pieces of advice is to watch your personal hygiene. That definitely involves taking care of your tongue, but why exactly does “sandpaper tongue” happen?

When your tongue feels dry, the most common reason is of course dehydration. If you aren’t taking in an adequate amount of water, your body can’t produce enough saliva to keep your mouth wet. Saliva is crucial for flushing out the mouth and removing debris, without it, bacteria buildup can cause you to have bad breath. What's more, your tongue won’t be able to remain moist.

Sometimes the way you feel can also result in a sandpaper-like tongue. Anxiety and nervousness are both emotions that may cause you to experience a dry mouth. In more severe cases, a serious condition could be the cause.

Which conditions cause sandpaper tongue?

Diabetes can cause your mouth to feel dry. In fact, sometimes a dry mouth is one of the first noticeable signs of having diabetes and can be reason enough to visit a doctor. Combine this with high blood sugar and a constant feeling of thirst–two possible symptoms of diabetes.

Sjogren’s syndrome is another condition that may lead to a dry tongue. This is a condition where the body's immune system attacks glands that secrete fluid, such as the tear ducts, and of course, the salivary glands. This leads to dryness of the main mucosal surfaces such as the mouth, eyes, nose, pharynx, larynx, and vagina. If you find that your tongue isn’t the only organ that feels incredibly dry, ask a healthcare professional if it’s possible that you have this syndrome.

Another possible cause of a sandpaper-like tongue is depression, particularly if you’re taking medication for it. Taking certain antidepressants may cause you to experience a dry mouth as a relatively common side effect.

Can sandpaper tongue cause additional issues?

When your tongue feels like sandpaper, be cautious. This seemingly harmless issue can actually act as the gateway for more significant conditions to take root inside your mouth. Remember, your mouth requires moisture from saliva, so lacking this moisture can lead to more serious issues.

Dry lips, halitosis (bad breath), oral thrush, gum disease, tooth decay, and more are all very realistic complications that can arise from something as simple as a dry tongue.

When your tongue feels dry, make a point of stopping by your health provider. They’ll be able to help prevent the onset or exacerbation of further problems. There are treatments that can help boost salivation, when necessary.

Beyond health issues, a dry tongue can come with a host of social issues too. Difficulty swallowing can make it difficult to enjoy social events, and make eating somewhat painful. On top of that, a constantly dry mouth prevents you from digesting and even tasting your food.

Worst of all, kissing could also be particularly unpleasant for your partner, leaving your sense of self-worth at risk. If your partner doesn’t want to kiss you, that’s going to take a hit on your self-esteem. And even an amazing, seemingly perfect date that ends with her not wanting to kiss you because of bad breath can take its toll on you. Speaking of which…

Will a dry mouth impact my dating life?

Refusing to kiss him because he has bad breath

A dry mouth and rough tongue can impact you, and the quality of your dating life. Your dry mouth will likely lead to bad breath, and that’s certainly not ideal for keeping your partner turned on, or getting with one in the first place.

You could try breath mints, regular brushing, and other things to mask your issue, but that doesn’t solve the underlying problem. You’ll likely experience a lot of unnecessary embarrassment by failing to get this simple issue checked out. It’s also possible that an existing partner could feel like you aren’t taking enough care of your personal hygiene, which could cause new tension in the relationship.

If you’re a single guy who’s looking to hook up, things may seem great until you actually meet up with someone. No matter how great a date may be, a woman won’t be receptive to a kiss if she can smell your breath from across the table. Much worse is if she does kiss you, but she ends up feeling like she’s kissing a sheet of sandpaper (and you know it’s not your beard she’s complaining about).

Dry mouth, gum disease, and dating

With such a huge impact on your dating life, will having a tongue that feels like sandpaper impact anything else in your life? YES.

When the salivary glands aren’t able to keep up, and your mouth dries out, you’re at a much greater risk for developing periodontal (gum) disease.

The excessive bacteria, which causes bad breath, can also cause painful inflammation of the gums known as gingivitis. Left untreated, this can develop into a full-blown gum disease, which causes the underlying bone and tissue to disintegrate

Once that happens, symptoms like persistent bad breath, swollen or red gums that may bleed, pain while chewing, loose or sensitive teeth, and receding gums can all occur. If you thought dating was tough before, this is like doing it in nightmare mode.

Your date is likely to become quite frantic once she realizes she’s kissed a man who’s bleeding out the mouth, and besides the mental anguish, the physical pain is sure to be terrible as well.

As with most things, it’s far better and easier to seek treatment and prevent this from occurring in the first place than it is to actually cure it. Treatments generally begin with a deep professional cleaning, but surgery, tissue grafts, and other extreme procedures might be necessary. That's why it’s of utmost importance to deal with oral issues and other medical complications before they develop further.

What’s more, if you have gum disease, it would actually be pretty irresponsible to continue dating as the bacteria in your mouth can be passed along through your saliva. That means that while gum disease is not technically contagious, the inflammation-causing bacteria can be transferred.

What to Do if Your Tongue Feels Like Sandpaper

First of all, don’t panic. A dry mouth and tongue are generally pretty trivial things to resolve. More often than not, your body just needs some time to set itself right and get all its processes in order again. If after a while you begin to feel worried, go ahead and visit your doctor. That way, even if nothing is wrong, you’ll have peace of mind and likely be prescribed something to make the waiting process a little easier.

If you’d like to try some home solutions first, there are a few things you can do to assist your body in relubricating your mouth and getting your tongue nice and soft again. If that fails, some basic pharmaceuticals may be what you need. Here are some solutions to go try and help ease the discomfort.

Tongue feels like sandpaper: the home solutions

Investing in a humidifier

First of all, before anything else, make sure you’re sipping water regularly. Two liters of water a day is ideal, but it’s tough to drink that much in one go. So try always having a water bottle nearby so you can take regular sips. This also helps keep halitosis at bay.

When your tongue feels like sandpaper, try chewing some sugar-free gum.  This will stimulate the flow of saliva and help your mouth feel less dry. You can also try sugar-free hard candies, but be careful as the xylitol in both these products can make some people experience cramps.

Purchasing a room humidifier can greatly aid you in keeping your mouth moist, as it adds moisture to the air, preventing your mouth from becoming dry, especially when you sleep.

A fun way to keep hydrated is to suck on ice lollies or ice cubes. This will allow you to keep your mouth wet over an extended period, and help prevent it from drying out. Naturally, fruits with a high water content like watermelon, or vegetables such as cucumber, are great too.

Tongue feels dry: things to avoid

Some people breathe through their mouths, which may cause issues as it allows the air passing through to dry out the mouth. You’ll also want to avoid over-the-counter antihistamines and decongestants, as these will actually make your symptoms worse. You’ll also want to try limiting your caffeine intake, as caffeine can make your mouth drier. Also stop all tobacco use, whether you smoke or chew it.

Some home items can also cause dry mouth, such as alcoholic mouthwashes. If you really want to use a mouthwash, get one that’s specifically made for people with dry mouth.

Pharmacy solutions for a dry mouth

Over-the-counter saliva substitutes and mouth sprays are a great way to keep your mouth moist when home solutions fail. Ask your pharmacist for products containing xylitol, carboxymethylcellulose, or hydroxyethyl cellulose. Perhaps do your memory a favor and just show them a screenshot of these words.

Oral sprays and nasal washes could also greatly benefit you, as keeping the nasal passage clear helps relieve a dry mouth. Papaya tablets contain papain, which helps digest proteins, as well as stimulate the production of saliva. Best to check with your local pharmacist for options and suggestions. There are a couple of options available at your local pharmacy for helping you get past a dry throat, so don’t be afraid to ask.

Why does my tongue still feel like sandpaper after all that?

Tongue still feels like sandpaper after all the remedies

If after a while, and trying various solutions, your tongue is still dry, you should definitely visit a doctor. They’ll be able to prescribe something you can’t simply get over the counter, and check up on you to make sure there isn’t a more sinister issue at hand.

In cases of severe dryness, your doctor may prescribe pilocarpine (Salagen) or cevimeline (Evoxac) to stimulate saliva production.

If you’ve been experiencing these symptoms for a prolonged period after a sexual experience, mention that to your doctor. A dry mouth is actually a common symptom of autoimmune diseases such as HIV/AIDS.

In the elderly, it can be a sign of Alzheimer, nerve damage, inadequate nutrition, and other long-term health problems. Lastly, cancer therapy may also cause a reduction in saliva production.

While a dry mouth can be a symptom of many scary conditions, in most cases, it really isn’t anything to worry about. If you find yourself asking, “Why does my tongue feel like sandpaper”, then drink lots of cool water throughout the day, breathe in air that isn’t too dry, and eat refreshing fruits. Even just these simple practices will help you immensely in keeping your mouth and body well-hydrated.

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