Reviewed By: Pramod Kerkar, MD, FFARCSI

About Numb Tongue

Numbness in the tongue is something which we do not commonly experience; numbness in the hand and feet, yes; but a numb tongue? Not so much. What causes the numbness in the tongue? Most of the times, a numb tongue is also accompanied by a tingling sensation and other symptoms. Read on to know more about numb tongue and what causes it.

Numb Tongue: What Can Cause Your Tongue to Go Numb?

Numb Tongue: What Can Cause Your Tongue to Go Numb?

Some of the causes of a numb tongue are very severe, which need immediate treatment and some are mild, which do not need treatment and the numb tongue resolves on its own. Some of the potential causes of a numb tongue are:

Paresthesia: Paresthesia is one of commonest causes of a numb tongue. The sensory nerves are responsible for controlling the taste sensation in the tongue and if there is any strain on these nerves or if they get injured, then it causes paresthesias, which results in a numb tongue. Depending upon the severity of the injury, a numb tongue resulting from Paresthesia can last for days or weeks.

Trauma/Injury to Tongue: Numb tongue and loss of taste can occur as a result of trauma, such as burns to the tongue. The taste buds present on tongue contain taste receptor cells, which are responsible for transmitting information to the brain for determination of taste. Any injury to these taste buds can cause tongue numbness and decreased ability to taste. The numb tongue in such cases is often temporary and improves without requiring any treatment.

Burning Mouth Syndrome: In some cases, burning mouth syndrome can also cause a numb tongue and impaired taste. Burning mouth syndrome is a condition where the patient has intermittent bouts of severe burning in the tongue and in the lips and gum. The cause of burning mouth syndrome is not known, but it is thought that deficiency of Vitamin B12 or hormonal disturbances can cause burning mouth syndrome.

Stroke: Stroke is a medical condition in which blood circulation to a certain region of the brain gets interrupted causing a numb tongue. During a stroke, the nerve cells present in the brain responsible for identifying taste get impaired resulting in loss of taste along with a numb tongue.

Anesthesia: If you have had a recent dental procedure done, which involves local anesthesia, such as wisdom tooth extraction, root canal or a dental implant, then this can also cause numb tongue. When giving local anesthesia during dental procedures, the lingual nerve can incur damage resulting in a numb tongue.

Numb Tongue Caused by Certain Medications: There are some medications, which can cause a numb tongue as their side effect. An example of which are antibiotics prescribed for treating bacterial infection on the tongue can cause a numb tongue.

Tumors: Tumor present within the tongue compresses the nerves, which causes a numb tongue and loss of taste also.

Other Causes of Numb Tongue: Other factors, which can damage the taste buds and result in a numb tongue are increasing age, alcohol abuse, gum decay, ill-fitting dentures and smoking.

Are There Any Other Symptoms Accompanying a Numb Tongue?

Other symptoms accompanying a numb tongue are:

  • Slow or slurred speech.
  • Complete absence of the taste.
  • Persistent bitter or bad taste in the mouth.

Serious Symptoms of Numb Tongue

Other serious symptoms accompanying a numb tongue, which need prompt medical attention, are:

  • Changes in the level of consciousness or alertness.
  • Abrupt and severe headache.
  • Pain in the tongue.
  • Difficulties in breathing
  • Facial weakness.
  • Lethargy.
  • Confusion, delusion or hallucinations.
  • Fecal or urinary incontinence.
  • Neck pain.
  • Numbness on one side of the body.
  • Paralysis or the inability to move any part of the body.
  • Seizures.
  • Difficulties in speech such as slurred or garbled speech.
  • Changes in the vision.
  • Swelling in the tongue, face or lips.

Diagnosis & Treatment of Numb Tongue

To diagnose the exact cause of numb tongue, patient’s medical history and physical exam are taken. Investigations, which need to be carried out to determine the exact cause of numb tongue, include: X-ray, MRI scan, blood tests etc.

Treatment for numb tongue depends on the underlying cause of the tongue numbness. Some mild causes, such as injury need no treatment and the tongue numbness resolves on its own; whereas, some serious causes such as stroke or tumor need immediate treatment to treat the numb tongue.

Pramod Kerkar

Written, Edited or Reviewed By:

, MD,FFARCSI

Pain Assist Inc.

Last Modified On: June 20, 2018

This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer

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