Dental Tips Blog


How to Treat Tongue Burns

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.

1)      Medication

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.


Preventing Gum Disease

Millions of Americans have some form of gum disease which can range from a mild inflammation of the gums to a serious infection that can infect the jawbone and cause tooth loss.  Taking good care of your teeth and gums can prevent gum disease and keep your teeth and gums healthy.

Gum disease is caused by bacteria that are naturally present in our mouths.  This bacteria forms a sticky film called “plaque” on our teeth.  Brushing your teeth and flossing help remove plaque, but when plaque is not removed it hardens and forms “tartar” that can only be removed by a professional dental cleaning.

Plaque and tartar irritates the gums and causes inflammation.  This mild form of gum disease is called gingivitis and is easily treated by a professional teeth cleaning.  Good brushing and flossing will help prevent gingivitis.

Untreated gingivitis can progress to a more serious form of gum disease called periodontitis.  As the infection spreads below the gum line, the body’s natural immune system attempts to fight the infection.  Both the bacteria and the body’s response causes bone and connective tissue to start breaking down.  In extreme cases, the bone is severely damaged that the patient’s teeth fall out.

Periodontitis is treated in various ways depending on the extent of the disease.  Treatment may include deep cleaning to remove the plaque and tartar below the gums, medications to fight the infection, and oral surgery to replace damaged bone or gum tissue.

Prevention of gum disease starts with good oral health habits.  Brushing your teeth twice a day and regular flossing will help reduce the amount of plaque and tartar build up. Get dental checkups and cleanings twice a year to remove tartar and to identify signs of tooth decay and gum disease early when they can be easily treated.

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