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Burnt Tongue: Causes, Symptoms, Treatment, and Prevention

Updated: Sep 26, 2023

A burnt tongue is a common occurrence when people are impatient about eating their hot foods. Not waiting for it to cool down will cause a tongue burn.

Tongue burn

Table of Contents:

Causes of a burnt tongue

The most common cause of tongue burn is from consuming hot food or hot liquids when it has not sufficiently cooled down. Most people will experience a burnt tongue from drinking hot soup and this condition occurs more frequently during the winter time when people are cold and not as cognizant of the difference in temperature.

Another common culprit would be a hot slice of pizza or any hot foods in general. Any type of food that is entering your mouth that is at a temperature higher than room temperature will have the potential to burn your tongue.

Last but not least, aside from food irresponsible actions such as trying to lick a lighter will also cause your tongue to burn. Please do not do that.

Symptoms of a tongue burn

There may be varying degrees of burn on a burnt tongue but most of them will be accompanied by some level of pain.

  • First degree burn. If only the outer layer of your tongue is affected it will be a first degree burn. The tongue will appear red and painful but there will not be any blisters. Long term damage will most likely not occur.

  • Second degree burn. This degree of burn will affect the layer immediately below the outermost layer of your tongue. Your tongue will be red and painful like the first degree but you may also see blisters. The blisters will be extra painful to touch.

  • Third degree burn. This is a much more serious burn to your tongue because it is considered a full thickness burn. In addition to the symptoms above, you may also notice the tongue turn from red to even yellow, brown, or black tongue. Surprisingly this won't hurt because a third degree burn will have destroyed all of the nerves in your tongue.

You will be able to diagnose how bad the tongue burn is by the degree of burn.

How to heal a burnt tongue

There are a variety of home remedies to heal a burnt tongue which you can utilize at home. Most of the ingredients you should already have or can be easily purchased at your local market and pharmacy.

  • Stop consuming hot foods. In order to not exacerbate the burn and the pain, our long island city dentists recommend that you avoid hot foods for awhile. If you do wish to eat them, please wait a few minutes for your meal to cool down closer to room temperature before eating.

  • Consume cold foods. Drinking ice cold water and eating cold foods such as ice cream can help alleviate some of the burnt tongue symptoms. The coldness will also act as a numbing agent to give some pain relief for your tongue.

  • Salt water rinse. In order to keep your tongue clean and free of debris, our LIC dentists recommend that you rinse with salt water. The salt is a natural antiseptic so it will help prevent it from getting infected as well. Please do not rinse with Listerine or hydrogen peroxide because the acidic will delay the healing of your burn. To use the salt water, just add 1 teaspoon of salt to 8 oz of water. Swish around in your mouth for 1-2 minutes and then spit out.

  • Put honey on your tongue. If you can find some manuka honey, you can put some on your tongue to help soothe the burn. The honey also has anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties. Using the manuka honey will help speed up the healing process of your burnt tongue.

    • A word of caution from our dentists in long island city on using honey because despite the benefits, it does have the potential to cause tooth decay so please use sparingly! We recommend the other home remedies instead.

  • Over the counter pain killers. You can always use the trusted pain killers to reduce pain from the burn. Taking either ibuprofen or acetaminophen every 8 hours will help alleviate some of the pain.

  • Aloe gel. Applying some aloe gel to the burn will help speed up the healing process. Studies have shown that aloe vera is effective for first and second degree burns. In order to apply, stick your tongue out and put the oinment on. Try to leave it on for as long as possible before you have to rinse out.

A burnt tongue should typically heal within a week or two. It should not take longer than that for it to heal but if it does, please make an appointment with your dentist so that they can look into if it is more than just a burn. For the vast majority of cases, a burnt tongue will mostly just be a first degree burn because even hot foods shouldn't be hot enough to cause a second degree.

If you come in with a second or third degree burn, there would most likely have been foul play involved...

Tips for preventing future tongue burns

The most effective cure is prevention so if you just follow the guidelines below, you shouldn't have to deal with a tongue burn too often.

  1. Wait for your hot food to come closer to room temperature before trying to eat it.

  2. Don't eat or drink any thing hot if you just had dental work done because you won't be able to feel the temperature while you're numb.

  3. Do not engage in any questionable activities such as licking a lighter or trying to consume chemicals which can cause a chemical burn on your tongue.

If you have any questions, don't be afraid to contact our office to schedule a dental check up. We're conveniently located at 1311 Jackson Ave, Long Island City, NY 11101.



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About the author: Dr David Chen, DDS

Hello, I'm Dr Chen and I'm an actively practicing dentist in Long Island City, NY. I graduated from Columbia University College of Dental Medicine in 2016 but prior to going to dental school I was already working in the dental field. It's been more than a decade since I first got to know dentistry and let me tell you, time flies by quickly. Since then I've developed a fondness for writing, which is how this all got started!

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Medical Disclaimer:

This blog is purely meant for information purposes and should not be used as medical advice. Each situation in your mouth is unique and complex. It is not possible to give advice nor diagnose any oral conditions based on text nor virtual consultations. The best thing to do is to go in person to see your dentist for an examination and consultation so that you can receive the best care possible.

The purpose of all of this oral health information is to encourage you to see your dentist and to inform you of what you may expect during your visit. Due to the unfortunate nature of dentistry, there isn't really any true home remedies that will get rid of dental problems. Roughly 99.99% of them require in-person intervention by a healthcare professional.

Hint: That is the reason why you can't eliminate seeing dentists in your life!

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