Causes and Symptoms of Tongue
- Complete absence of taste
- Slow or slurred speech
- Persistent bad or bitter taste in the mouth
There are several different factors that could cause your tongue to go numb. Given below are some of the possible causes of a numb tongue:
- Paresthesia: One of the most common causes of a numb tongue is parasthesia. Your sensory nerves control the sensation of taste in your tongue. If these nerves undergo undue strain for any reason, they may get injured, which leads to paresthesia. This problem may last for days or weeks, depending upon the severity of the injury.
- Burning Mouth Syndrome: At times, the numbness in the tongue as well as impaired taste could be the result of burning mouth syndrome. This condition can cause you to experience intermittent periods of severe burning in the lips, gum and more specifically, the tongue. The exact causes burning mouth syndrome are still not clear, but health experts believe that it occurs due to hormonal imbalances or deficiency of Vitamin B12. In case the numbness affects your tongue as well as the lips, you may be suffering from burning mouth syndrome.
- Trauma: You may experience loss of taste because of burns or injuries on your tongue. Taste buds are present on specific points of your tongue, on top of the papillae (tiny bumps scattered all over your tongue). These taste buds carry taste receptor cells, which pass on information to the part of the brain that determines taste. Any damage to these taste buds can decrease your ability to taste. Tongue numbness is usually temporary in these cases and gets better without any treatment. Your taste buds can also get affected by factors like increasing age, gum decay, alcohol abuse, smoking and ill-fitting dentures.
- Anesthesia: In case you are going through a dental surgery like a root canal, implant or wisdom tooth extraction, your dentist will give you some local anesthesia, before the procedure starts, so that that you do not feel any pain. This reduces the sensation in different parts of your mouth and could also cause your tongue to go numb. During this process, the lingual nerve that provides sensation to your tongue could get damaged, which leads to prolonged numbness in the tongue.
- Certain Medication: Several over the counter and prescription medicines produce bothersome side effects such as numbness in the tongue. Antibiotics prescribed for bacterial infection on the tongue usually lead to numbness.
- Strokes: When a person suffers a stroke, the circulation of blood to a certain part of the brain gets cut off, which may lead to sudden numbness in the tongue. The nerve cells located in the brain that identify taste tend to get impaired during a stroke. In simple words, a stroke can damage the area of the brain that distinguishes between different tastes. Apart from the loss of taste, the tongue also usually goes numb. This is probably why people experience slurred speech when they are suffering from a stroke.
- Tumors: A growing mass or a tumor within the tongue can apply pressure on some of the nerves. This causes numbness, due to which you may lose sensation as well as taste.
As you can see, some of these causes are quite serious and need to be treated immediately. Therefore, it is important that you visit your doctor, especially of the numbness persists beyond a few hours or if you experience:
- A sudden, severe headache
- Breathing difficulties
- Changes in the levels of consciousness or alertness
- Confusion, hallucinations or delusion
- Facial weakness
- Fecal or urinary incontinence (the inability to control passing of stools or urine)
- Neck ache
- Numbness on one side of your body
- Pain in the tongue
- Paralysis or the inability to move any one body part
- Seizures or convulsions
- Speech difficulties like garbled or slurred speech
- Swelling in the tongue, lips or face
- Vision changes
Your doctor may need to conduct a thorough physical checkup and run a few tests to determine the exact cause of the numbness. In case the tests determine that the numbness is caused by some sort of injurie or trauma, your doctor may not prescribe any treatment path. However, in case the numbness is caused by a serious condition, you may even need to be hospitalized for a while.
- Chan, H.L., D.J. Leong, J.H. Fu, C.Y. Yeh, N. Tatarakis, H.L. Wang. “The Significance of the Lingual Nerve During Periodontal/Implant Surgery.” J Periodontol. 81.3 Mar. 2010:372-377.
- Fauci, Anthony S., et al. Harrison’s Principles of Internal Medicine. 17th ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Professional, 2008.
- An effective way to cure burning tongue is to suck on a piece of ice. It works wonders, treating the ailment effectively.
- Enhance the consumption of water. Larger quantity of water intake helps keep the mouth moist.
- Increase the consumption of food rich in Vitamin B, such as potatoes, bananas, lentils, chile peppers, tempeh, liver oil, liver, turkey, tuna, nutritional yeast (or brewer’s yeast) and molasses.
- Apply glycerin on the tongue. It would give a cooling sensation, thereby relieving the pain and burning sensation.
- Another effective treatment for curing burning tongue is to have honey with milk. It increases the blood flow to the tongue, thereby healing it.
- For meals, resort to plain food, with lots of boiled vegetables. This would act beneficial in treating burning tongue.
- Lavender oil acts as an antiseptic. It not only works well to cure burning tongue, but also promotes blood circulation. Apply lavender oil on the affected area and leave overnight.
- Add iron rich food, such as broccoli, spinach and parsley, to your diet. They will help in treating burning tongue, by aiding the production of new red blood cells, replacing the damaged ones.
- It is recommended to have fresh fruit juice and vegetable juice, while suffering from burning tongue. These juices provide the necessary nutrients to the body and help relieve the burning sensation.
- Sugar free chewing gums would also be worthwhile in curing burning tongue. They keep the tongue moist and ease the pain.
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