Winter is here and makes us long for something hot and comforting to sip, be it coffee, tea, soup or hot chocolate. There are times we have underestimated the heat of melted cheese on a pizza slice or while hungrily tucking into steaming hot rice.
Regardless of the villainous morsels, tongue burn is a common mishap that has not spared most of us. But the pain it causes immediately after it strikes can be too intense to bear. For the next few days, there is no pleasure in eating food as it will feel tasteless. This is because the hot food has burnt and affected the large number of taste buds present on the tongue.
How does one get relief and heal the burnt tongue quickly? Experts tell us some easy ways for it.
Quick healing organ
Interestingly, our oral cavity is one of the fastest healing parts of our body, says Dr Zaeem Jafri, London-based dentist and founder of online dental care platform Nova Smiles. “Generally, the tongue and the soft tissues in our mouth heal very fast and effectively,” he says.
Another fact is that the saliva in the mouth plays a significant role in this healing. It provides a humid environment which helps in the survival and functioning of the cells responsible for wound healing. The various proteins present in the saliva are also similarly beneficial.
It takes a week
Whitney DiFoggio, a registered dental hygienist and cofounder at Teeth Talk Girl, US, says, “It takes two to three days for the symptoms such as tenderness and sensitivity to subside. However, the complete healing time can vary from person to person.”
Dr Jafri adds that most tongue burns are superficial, first-degree burns. “In this case, your tongue should return to normal in a week.” If it is a second-degree burn (i.e. when the surface layer and the underlying tissues of tongues are damaged), it can take a few weeks to recover, he adds.
“Second and third-degree [tongue] burns are unlikely to occur due to hot foods and drinks; [they have] more to do with corrosive chemicals,” says Dr Jafri. Those persons should seek medical intervention in these cases.
For immediate relief from tongue burns
When you burn your tongue, Dr Jafri recommends following these tips to get immediate relief:
- Bathe the tongue in cold water.
- Suck on something cold such as ice pops. Avoid sucking on ice as it is very cold and can sometimes stick to the tongue and worse the damage.
- Put some milk on the affected area to soothe the tongue.
Boosting the tongue burn healing
While the tongue is healing, it is also important to take care of the diet. “No hot foods or drinks!” says Dr Jafri, suggesting one should eat non-spicy food that does not irritate the tissues. Acidic foods should also be avoided during the healing period as they worsen the pain in some people. Acidic foods can also worsen the pain. Hard foods like chips can also scrape the tongue and worsen the problem.
DiFoggio agrees. She suggests eating soft and easy foods such as yoghurt or ice cream. They can soothe the burn and she says that drinking enough water is crucial as it aids the healing process.
Prevention is better
To prevent tongue burns, DiFoggio suggests waiting briefly for the hot food to cool a little before eating: “Take your time when it comes to hot foods or drinks. Do not dig in too quickly.”
Dr Jafri says one can also blow on very hot food and be careful before putting it in the mouth.
Enduring a severe burn can lead to altered taste and sensation due to the damaged nerve endings and taste buds, says Dr Jafri. DiFoggio adds that rarely, complications can lead to infections. The signs include worsening redness and swelling. However, good oral hygiene can prevent this, she adds.
Things to remember
- Maintain oral hygiene to aid the healing process. Be mindful and brush gently around the affected area.
- Seek medical advice if the tongue does not show recovery signs in a few days.
- Adequate rest can help the body in healing.