If you’ve ever taken a shockingly hot gulp of your morning coffee or eagerly bit into a piping hot slice of cheesy pizza, you may have experienced the pain of a burned tongue. The tongue is a muscular organ that is strong for its size and well able to aid in chewing tough meats or crunchy vegetables. Yet it is highly sensitive, and the soft tissues can easily be damaged by steaming hot liquids or foods. Follow these steps to protect your tongue and allow healing if you find yourself with a burn.
10. Drink Cool Water
Immediately after that first taste of a scalding hot beverage or food that burns your tongue, head for a glass of cool water. It may be tempting to go straight for ice, but the extreme temperature of ice can cause further damage to burned tissues. Instead, drink a glass of cool or lukewarm water to bathe your tongue, soothe the tissues, and wash away any food particles that could irritate the burn. Following a glass of water, you may want to try drinking some milk, which will coat the tongue and may be soothing.
9. Grab a Popsicle
Tongue burns, like other burns, fall into one of three categories. A first-degree burn involves the outermost layer of the tongue. This minor burn is the one most frequently experienced when eating hot foods. It results in painful swelling and redness. Once the tissues have calmed down, it should be safe to soothe the tongue and numb the pain with a popsicle or piece of ice. Second-degree burns affect deeper tissues of the tongue and may result in blistering. A third-degree burn is the deepest type of burn. Symptoms are a tongue that is blackened or white in color and either extreme pain or numbness of the tongue. Seek medical treatment for second- or third-degree burns.
8. Rinse with Salt Water
A burned tongue can be soothed with a warm salt water rinse. Salt water also keeps the area free of food particles and acts as a mild antibacterial agent. Dissolve 1/8 teaspoon of salt in one cup of water. Rinse your mouth with this solution and then spit. While you are recovering from a burned tongue, avoid eating or drinking foods that are too hot or spicy. You will also want to avoid eating sharp or rigid foods like chips that can irritate or cut your tongue.
7. Apply Some Honey
Honey has antibacterial and antifungal characteristics and can be dabbed on the tongue to relieve pain and help prevent infection. It may help to soothe the tongue by sealing in moisture and forming a protective film. Honey may also promote the healing of wounds by aiding in the growth of new tissue. One study has shown that honey may be an effective treatment for mouth ulcers and sores, and may even be beneficial in treating wounds in the hospital setting.
6. Try Some Yogurt
A helping of cool, refreshing yogurt may help ease the pain of a tongue burn. The cool temperature and smooth texture can provide relief. Scoop up a serving of your favorite Greek yogurt and slowly savor it, allowing it to coat your tongue as you eat. Yogurt is packed with calcium, nutrients, and healthy probiotics that will nourish your body if you aren’t feeling up to eating crispy, crunchy foods that are difficult to manipulate with a sore tongue.
5. Use Pain Medications
For burn pain that isn’t relieved by honey or salt water rinses alone, you may want to use an over-the-counter pain medication such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen. A first-degree tongue burn usually heals in around two weeks, although some burns take up to six weeks to heal. If your tongue burn does not improve with time or if the burn becomes infected, contact your doctor. Your tongue may be infected if redness increases, pain increases, the burn doesn’t seem to heal, or swelling continues. Fever and pus draining from the wound are other signs of infection.
4. Be Gentle with Brushing
While recovering from a tongue burn, be gentle when brushing your teeth. Avoid brushing your tongue while you brush your teeth during the healing process. You may want to switch to a soft-bristled toothbrush to avoid accidentally scraping or irritating the burn. Colgate has a soft toothbrush designed for sensitive teeth that may be beneficial while your tongue is healing.
3. Avoid Future Burns
While tongue burns are generally minor and treatable, the best defense against mouth burns is to prevent them. Allow steaming foods to cool before digging in. Hot soups, hot beverages, and foods with gooey, piping hot cheese are common culprits in tongue burns. A cup of hot chocolate can be deceiving when it is covered in a mountain of snowy whipped cream. Give beverages a stir to release steam, take your time, and enjoy.
2. Primary Burning Mouth Syndrome
When you burn your tongue on a cup of coffee or a grilled cheese sandwich, you immediately know it. However, there is a condition known as burning mouth syndrome. This condition occurs when a person experiences painful sensations of burning in the mouth with no apparent cause. According to the Mayo Clinic, primary burning mouth syndrome has no known cause and may be related to nervous system issues. This rare condition most often affects women over the age of 50. Frequent sips of water, sucking on ice, and the use of special oral rinses may help with symptoms.
1. Secondary Burning Mouth Syndrome
Meanwhile, secondary burning mouth syndrome may be caused by dry mouth, oral fungal infections, allergic reactions, or a lack of certain vitamins and minerals. Painful burning may be linked to stomach acid backing up into the mouth in disorders such as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). Diabetes, hypothyroidism, anxiety, depression, and stress are other issues that may result in secondary burning mouth syndrome. In these cases, treatment targets the primary medical condition that causes the burning mouth syndrome. Contact your physician if you experience chronic painful mouth sensations or tingling with no apparent cause.