What is a tongue burn?
Eating foods or drinking liquids that are too hot can burn your tongue. Your tongue is a highly sensitive organ that helps you recognize tastes and textures. It consists of tiny bumps called papillae. Some of the papillae contain taste buds. Burning your tongue can damage the papillae and your taste buds. The damage can cause your tongue to hurt and make it harder to taste food and drinks.
Fortunately, most tongue burns aren’t serious, and taste buds heal quickly. And there are home remedies you can use to cope while your tongue heals. More serious burns, on the other hand, require immediate medical attention.
How serious is a burned tongue?
Most tongue burns aren’t serious and heal on their own. As with any burn, if the heat has damaged deep layers of tissue, you’ll need to see a healthcare provider immediately to prevent complications like infections.
- First-degree burn: The burn only affects the top layer of tissue. You’ll feel mild pain, and your tongue may appear hot pink or red. Most tongue burns are first-degree burns.
- Second-degree burn: The burn damages the surface tissue of your tongue and some tissue underneath. Your tongue will hurt and may appear hot pink or red, as with a first-degree burn. Blisters may form.
- Third-degree burn: The burn damages the innermost layers of your tongue. The pain in your tongue may feel excruciating, or you may not feel any sensation in your tongue at all. Your tongue may appear white or black, like it’s charred. It’s rare to get a tongue burn this serious.
You’ll be able to treat first-degree burns at home. A healthcare provider needs to treat second- and third-degree burns. If you’re unsure about the severity of a burn, see a healthcare provider.
Symptoms and Causes
What causes tongue burns?
Tongue burns can happen when you don’t allow food or drinks adequate cool time before consuming them. Being distracted is a major culprit. Many people eat meals or snacks in a rush and aren’t paying attention to things like heat. It’s easy to take a big bite of piping hot food or a gulp of a steaming hot drink because you’re multitasking. You’re going through the motions of eating or drinking, but your mind is elsewhere.
Microwaved foods are a major cause of tongue burns. Microwaves heat food unevenly, which can be deceptive. While the first bite may seem cool enough, the next one may burn your tongue.
What are the symptoms of a burned tongue?
Symptoms will depend on how serious your burn is. In addition to the burning, you may experience:
- Tongue pain.
- A loss of sensation in your tongue.
- Hot pink or red tongue that appears inflamed and swollen.
- Decreased sense of taste or a metallic taste in your mouth.
- A smooth tongue (your papillae may momentarily disappear if damaged).
People with a condition called geographic tongue may also have a smooth tongue, redness and a burning feeling in their mouths, but this is different from a tongue burn. Geographic tongue is a harmless condition involving smooth red patches bordered by white or gray tissue on your tongue. Doctors aren’t sure what causes geographic tongue, but it’s unrelated to burns.
Diagnosis and Tests
How are tongue burns diagnosed?
A healthcare provider can tell how serious a burn is by examining your tongue. They’ll ask what happened before it started burning to try and pinpoint a cause.
Management and Treatment
How do you heal a burnt tongue quickly?
Most burns heal quickly on their own, within a week or two. In the meantime, you can use several home remedies to feel better faster.
- Drink something cool. Most people reach for a cold drink after a tongue burn. This is a good instinct. It’s also a good idea to continue sipping on a cold beverage for several minutes afterward. With more serious burns, the cold can stop the heat from burning into the deeper layers of your tongue.
- Eat cold (or cool) soft foods. For several days after your tongue burn, eat foods like yogurt, ice cream and chilled applesauce that feel gentle on your tongue.
- Suck on ice chips or popsicles. Sip a cold drink, or suck on ice chips and popsicles if it reduces the burning and feels soothing. Take care that your tongue doesn’t stick to the ice.
- Coat your tongue with milk. Many people who enjoy spicy foods use milk to reduce the heat. Milk can also soothe a burned tongue.
- Use sugar or honey. Similar to milk, you can coat your tongue with honey. Honey also has antibacterial properties that can prevent infection. Another option is to sprinkle sugar on your tongue. Sugar can lessen the pain.
- Rinse with saltwater. Saltwater can cleanse your mouth of any bacteria that may cause an infection following a tongue burn. Take care not to overdo it, though. Too much salt can irritate your injury. Dissolve about 1/8 a teaspoon in eight ounces of water, rinse and then spit out the saltwater mix.
- Take pain medications. Acetaminophen (Tylenol®) or ibuprofen (Advil®) or other over-the-counter NSAIDs can reduce the pain and inflammation of a burned tongue.
- Take vitamin E. Vitamin E can help speed the healing time associated with burns, including tongue burns. Squeeze a 1,000 IU liquid capsule directly onto your tongue to promote healing.
- Attend to your oral hygiene. Continue to brush your teeth and floss while your tongue is healing, taking care not to touch your tongue. Keeping your mouth free of bacteria can prevent infection while your tongue is healing.
- Drink hot beverages. The heat can aggravate your burn and worsen the pain.
- Eat foods that can irritate your tongue. Steer clear of acidic foods like citrus, and spicy, salty or crunchy foods that can aggravate your already sensitive tongue.
See a healthcare provider if your tongue isn’t healing or still hurts after a week.
How can I prevent a tongue burn?
The best way to prevent a tongue burn is to taste test your food before taking a big bite. For example, take a small sip before drinking a hot beverage. In addition to protecting your tongue from burns, focusing on your food and drink can help you eat more mindfully. Mindful eating can help you make healthier food choices and allow you to savor your food more.
Outlook / Prognosis
How long does it take for burnt taste buds to heal?
Your tongue heals fast. The cells in your taste buds regenerate every one to two weeks. Even if foods taste less flavorful for a short while following a tongue burn, your taste should return to normal within a week or so.
When should I see my healthcare provider?
See a doctor or dentist immediately if you have symptoms of a second- or third-degree burn. Make an appointment if you’ve tried home remedies and your symptoms haven’t improved within a week.
See a healthcare provider immediately if you have symptoms of an infection, including:
- A fever.
- Worsening pain, redness or swelling.
- Drainage or pus coming out of your tongue.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the difference between a burned tongue and burning mouth syndrome?
A burned tongue shares symptoms with a condition called burning mouth syndrome — a burning sensation in your tongue or the roof of your mouth. But they’re not the same.
Unlike a tongue burn, burning mouth syndrome isn’t caused by damage to your tongue’s tissue. Instead, the burning is more of a sensation than a reaction to damaged tissue. It’s usually difficult to identify the cause. The burning sensation starts randomly, gradually worsens throughout the day and often improves at night. The cycle usually repeats the next day.
Burning mouth syndrome won’t naturally heal like a tongue burn. Instead, you’ll need to visit a healthcare provider to get diagnosed and treated.
A note from Cleveland Clinic
The hectic pace of everyday life means that most people experience tongue burns at some point. It’s easy to take an enthusiastic bite of a pizza fresh out of the oven or a large gulp of recently brewed coffee without thinking about their temperature. Follow your instincts if you suddenly burn your tongue. Grab a cool drink of water or milk. Treat your tongue gently while it’s healing by avoiding salty, spicy or crunchy food. If you’re concerned that a burn is serious, see a healthcare provider. They can assess your injury and potentially prevent more serious complications, like an infection.
How long does a severely burnt tongue take to heal? ›
There is no way to say precisely how long it will take a tongue burn to heal, but in general it should take two weeks or less. The tongue, lips, and tissues in the oral cavity heal quickly for several different reasons. They are mucous tissues that have a simpler composition than skin tissue.How do you heal your tongue? ›
- use a soft toothbrush to brush your teeth.
- brush your tongue or use a scraper to help improve a white tongue.
- use a straw to drink cool drinks.
- take paracetamol or ibuprofen.
Acidic beverages such as soft drinks, hot spicy foods, overzealous brushing of your tongue, and overusing your mouthwash can irritate your mouth. If you're experiencing a burning sensation in your mouth, try to drink fewer irritating beverages.What medicine helps a burnt tongue? ›
Rinse with cool water or cool salt water (1/8 teaspoon of salt dissolved in 8 ounces of water). Avoid warm or hot liquids, which could irritate the burn. Take acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil) for pain and inflammation. Consider sprinkling a few grains of sugar or trying honey on the tongue to relieve pain.What is the home remedy for mouth burn? ›
For immediate relief, suck on something cold, like ice cubes or popsicles. Also, yogurt, milk, or honey can help by coating the burned area. Warm salt water rinses also help. Salt is antiseptic and will clean and disinfect the area.What is the fastest way to heal your tongue? ›
- Maintaining good oral hygiene. Keeping the mouth clean could help heal a sore tongue. ...
- Sucking on ice. ...
- Rinsing the mouth with saltwater. ...
- Rinsing the mouth with cool chamomile tea. ...
- Using sage as a herbal remedy. ...
- Applying honey to the sore.
- Being mindful of foods and drinks. ...
- Avoiding smoking.
Vitamin B and zinc supplement therapy and topical capsaicin rinse therapy can be an effective way to decrease pain/burning sensation levels in patients with BMS.How common is burning tongue? ›
Burning mouth syndrome (BMS) is a benign condition that presents as a burning sensation in the absence of any obvious findings in the mouth and in the absence of abnormal blood tests. BMS affects around 2% of the population with women being up to seven times more likely to be diagnosed than men.What is the best toothpaste for burning mouth syndrome? ›
Destined to be your new main squeeze, Oxyfresh Fresh Breath Lemon Mint Toothpaste is the best toothpaste for Burning Mouth Syndrome or sensitivities to SLS. With its delicate blend of seven essential oils, you're guaranteed a hydrating, fresh experience every time you brush.Do taste buds grow back? ›
A taste bud is good at regenerating; its cells replace themselves every 1-2 weeks. This penchant for regeneration is why one recovers the ability to taste only a few days after burning the tongue on a hot beverage, according to Parnes.
Does mouthwash help a burnt tongue? ›
Help It Heal
Consider using an anesthetic ointment or a mouthwash that will help maintain the bacteria levels in your mouth. This can also help numb the pain from the burn, just make sure not to use too much.
A number of home remedies might quench the flames. One is swishing cold apple juice in the mouth. Or you can do the same with a mixture of Kaopectate and Benadryl liquid before eating.Does vinegar help with a burnt tongue? ›
Burns are like any other wound: they heal best when irritation is avoided. As such, steer clear of anything acidic like citrus fruits and juices, tomatoes or vinegar. These foods will likely irritate the burn and cause you more pain, not to mention a longer recovery time.How do doctors treat burning mouth? ›
Treatment options may include: Saliva replacement products. Specific oral rinses or lidocaine. Capsaicin, a pain reliever that comes from chili peppers.Does hydrogen peroxide help mouth burns? ›
Hydrogen peroxide is a mild antiseptic that's used on the skin to prevent the infection of minor cuts, burns, and scrapes. In recent years, many people have used it as a mouth rinse to remove mucus or to alleviate mouth irritation due to sores and gingivitis.How long does burning mouth take to heal? ›
Whatever pattern of mouth discomfort you have, burning mouth syndrome may last for months to years. In rare cases, symptoms may suddenly go away on their own or happen less often. Sometimes the burning feeling may be briefly relieved during eating or drinking.Can the tongue repair itself? ›
A cut or tear to the tongue can bleed a lot. Small injuries may often heal on their own. If the injury is long or deep, it may need stitches that dissolve over time. If a piece of your tongue was cut off or bitten off, it may have been reattached.What OTC medicine can I take for burning mouth? ›
No over-the-counter medications are available for burning mouth syndrome (BMS). You can take other steps to help relieve the symptoms: Drink plenty of fluids. Suck on ice chips.Is honey good for a sore tongue? ›
The soothing properties of honey helps in relieving pain and inflammation caused by a sore tongue. Apply honey on the affected part for a few times a day.Does vitamin D Help with burning tongue? ›
A diet lacking or low in vitamin D will cause burning mouth syndrome. Symptoms of this condition include a burning mouth sensation, a metallic or bitter taste in the mouth, and dry mouth. Drink milk, and eat egg yolks and fish to increase your vitamin D intake.
Does burning tongue come and go? ›
Burning mouth syndrome (BMS), also known as burning tongue, is a condition where your tongue and roof of your mouth feel like they're burning. This condition often seems to start out of nowhere, and the pain can come and go. Treatment can help.What virus makes your tongue burn? ›
Varicella zoster virus (VZV), as well as herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1), can cause burning mouth syndrome, with or without rash.Does mouthwash help burning mouth syndrome? ›
5. Oral Hygiene. Your dentist may recommend an alcohol-free mouthwash to ensure your mouth is not further irritated. You can also use mild-flavored, flavor-free, or sensitivity toothpaste to help relieve symptoms.Do dentists treat burning mouth? ›
Treatment. Your dentist may help you manage oral habits that contribute to BMS, such as tooth grinding or jaw clenching. Your dentist or doctor may prescribe medication that can help control pain and relieve dry mouth. Sometimes a small dose of topical or systemic clonazepam might help with BMS pain.Does salt water help burning mouth syndrome? ›
Rinse with Salt Water
Add 1/8 teaspoon of salt to an 8-ounce glass of warm water, rinse your mouth gently, and then spit it out. Salt is a natural antiseptic that can reduce swelling and pain and relieve your burn symptoms.
Clonazepam, which helps depress the nervous system, is often a “first-line” therapy. Antidepressants, such as paroxetine or sertraline, and gabapentin, a medication that also depresses the nervous system, are sometimes used for burning mouth syndrome.How do you fix damaged taste buds? ›
- Choose foods that look good to the eye.
- Maintain dental hygiene by properly cleaning your mouth.
- Try different food textures, flavors, and temperatures to see which one appeals to you the most.
- Increase the amount of protein in your diet.
- Cool water. The first thing you should do when you get a minor burn is run cool (not cold) water over the burn area for about 20 minutes. ...
- Cool compresses. ...
- Antibiotic ointments. ...
- Aloe vera. ...
- Honey. ...
- Reducing sun exposure. ...
- Don't pop your blisters. ...
- Take an OTC pain reliever.
How can I ease my symptoms?
- Rinse your mouth with warm saltwater twice a day.
- Pop an ice cube in your mouth and press it against your tongue until it melts.
- Eat soft, cool, bland foods.
Try sharp tasting foods and drinks, such as citrus fruits, juices, sorbet, jelly, lemon mousse, fruit yoghurt, boiled sweets, mints, lemonade, Marmite, Bovril, or aniseed. Excessive sweetness can be relieved by diluting drinks with tonic or soda water. Adding ginger, nutmeg or cinnamon to puddings may be helpful.
What vitamins restore taste buds? ›
With mineral or vitamin deficiencies, simply supplementing with a multi- or specific vitamin (B12, B-complex, and zinc) may be helpful. If due to medications, switching to a different medication may help restore a normal sense of taste.How do you know if your taste buds are damaged? ›
Damage taste buds might mean someone is unable to taste spoiled foods. A sense of taste that is compromised could also affect a person's appetite and enjoyment of their food. These problems with food consumption can result in unwanted weight loss if not dealt with quickly.How long does it take for loss of taste to come back? ›
When will I get my sense of smell and taste back? Patients usually improve slowly with time. About 65 percent of people with COVID-19-induced parosmia or hyposmia regain these senses by about 18 months, while 80-90 percent regain these senses by two years.Why does my food not taste good anymore? ›
Taste bud changes can occur naturally as we age or may be caused by an underlying medical condition. Viral and bacterial illnesses of the upper respiratory system are a common cause of loss of taste. In addition, many commonly prescribed medications can also lead to a change in the function of the taste buds.Why does my tongue hurt after I brushed it too hard? ›
Our tongue is very delicate, so when we brush our tongue, we do not need to put too much pressure against it. Putting a lot of pressure will cause your tongue to become irritated and inflamed. If you are someone who gags when the toothbrush is all the way to the back, try working from the front of the tongue first.What is the best burn treatment at home? ›
Immediately immerse the burn in cool tap water or apply cold, wet compresses. Do this for about 10 minutes or until the pain subsides. Apply petroleum jelly two to three times daily. Do not apply ointments, toothpaste or butter to the burn, as these may cause an infection.Can a burn heal in 3 days? ›
How long does it take for burns to heal? Superficial burns—3 to 6 days. Superficial partial-thickness burns—usually less than 3 weeks. Deep partial-thickness burns—usually more than 3 weeks.Is honey good for healing burns? ›
Honey has been used as an adjuvant for accelerating wound healing in ulcers, infected wounds, and burns. It has also been used for storing skin grafts. In 1933 Philips6 mentioned the use of honey in burns and described it as the best natural dressing.Do taste buds grow back after burning tongue? ›
Depending on the severity of your burn, you may have a metallic taste in your mouth. Do not worry; this should go away as your burn heals. Taste buds can be burnt off, but will grow back within 10-14 days.What foods irritate the tongue? ›
Avoiding spicy and irritating foods
Spicy and acidic foods (like pineapple, lemon, and tomato) can worsen tongue soreness. Until the soreness goes away, avoid these foods. Instead, eat soft, bland foods, like mashed potatoes and oatmeal.
Why does my tongue hurt? ›
There are many different causes of tongue pain, including infections, canker sores, trauma or burns, and systemic medical illness. Some allergic and hypersensitivity reactions can cause swelling to the lips and tongue that may be accompanied by tongue pain.