Consuming too-hot food or drink and burning your tongue in the process is something that virtually everyone has experienced at some time or the other. Aside from heat burns, chemical tongue burns can occur when smoking a cigarette or pipe, a condition known as “tongue bite”. On the other hand, conditions such as burning mouth syndrome and thrush, as well as B12 vitamin or iron deficiency, can produce the sensation of a burning tongue.
Tongue burns can interfere with indispensable activities like eating and talking. A burnt or burning tongue is especially annoying because unlike burning your skin, you can’t apply a band-aid. They also take longer to heal than skin burns. If you have burnt your tongue or are suffering from a burning tongue, here are some things you can do to lessen your discomfort and speed up your recovery.
Purchase an over-the-counter oral analgesic or anesthetic gel, such as Orajel or Anbesol, and apply to the affected area as directed. These gels not only reduce pain but usually contain menthol which triggers the tongue’s cold-receptors resulting in a cooling sensation. Recently, dissolvable medicated strips have been developed for the treatment of tongue burns. When applied to the tongue, the strips dissolve releasing benzocaine (an anesthetic) and a therapeutic polymer that helps burns to heal faster. A sensation of burning in the tongue resulting from causes other than a heat or chemical burn may need to be treated with prescription medication such as anticonvulsants, tricyclic antidepressants, benzodiazepines, progesterone cream, or alpha lipoic acid.
2) Avoid irritants
If your tongue is burnt or burning, you will want to steer clear of certain foods that exacerbate the sensation and interfere with healing. These include hot caffeinated drinks, and acidic foods like citrus juices or fruit, vinegar, sodas and tomatoes. Also avoid tobacco and alcohol since these substances slow down the healing process. Instead, consume soothing, soft, cooling foods like cold water, yogurt, pudding, milkshakes, icecream, or suck on some ice chips.
3) See your dentist
If you have a heat burn blister on your tongue that does not respond to the above methods, or persistently experience the sensation of a burning tongue, it is recommended that you schedule a dental checkup. It is possible that a nutritional deficiency or some underlying oral pathology (e.g. nerve damage or even oral cancer) could be causing your symptoms. Your dentist will be able to help you determine the cause of your burning tongue and the appropriate course of treatment.
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