Burning tongue, also known as burning tongue syndrome, burning mouth, burning mouth syndrome, glossodynia or oral dysaesthesia, is a condition that causes a burning sensation on your tongue for no apparent dental or medical reason.
It may be an ongoing (chronic) or recurrent burning sensation, which can be very uncomfortable and frustrating.
The causes of this irritating oral problem are classified as either primary or secondary. The primary cause is related to problems with taste and sensory nerves.
Secondary causes include underlying medical conditions such as dry mouth, oral thrush, geographic tongue, nutritional deficiencies, poorly fitting dentures, an allergic reaction to food, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), certain medications, poor oral hygiene, endocrine disorders and psychological factors, such as anxiety, depression or stress.
Diabetic people and women who have entered the postmenopausal stage are at an increased risk for burning tongue syndrome.
Apart from the burning or scalded sensation on the tongue, other symptoms include a metallic or bitter taste that accompanies the burning sensation, a feeling of having a dry mouth even though saliva production is normal, increased thirst, loss of taste and a bumpy appearance with redness on the tongue.
The symptoms can appear suddenly or develop gradually over time.
When the problem is severe, it can cause difficulty eating, difficulty falling asleep, depression and anxiety.
It’s best to consult a doctor to determine if there is an underlying issue that requires medical care.
Meanwhile, you can try some simple home remedies to reduce the severity of symptoms and prevent complications.
Here are the top 10 ways to help treat burning tongue syndrome.
1. Cold Water
As soon as you have a burning sensation on your tongue, sip some cold water. It will have a numbing effect on the nerves in your tongue, which will soothe the burning sensation as well as pain.
Plus, sipping cold water will help ease the feeling of dry mouth, which can make the condition even more annoying.
Drink plenty of cold water, or you can also suck on ice chips. You can even try ice cream or chilled custard.
2. Alpha-Lipoic Acid
Alpha-lipoic acid (ALA) is an effective treatment for burning tongue. This powerful antioxidant helps protect the body against free radicals. It even helps restore the functioning of damaged nerve cells and prevents further damage.
A 2002 study published in the Journal of Oral Pathology and Medicine supports ALA as an effective remedy for burning mouth syndrome.
This double-blind, controlled study was conducted for two months on 60 patients with constant burning mouth syndrome. In this study, treatment with ALA significantly improved symptoms.
Take 600 mg of ALA daily for 20 days, then 200 mg daily for 10 days. However, if you are taking any other medicine or suffering from any other illness, consult a doctor before taking ALA.
3. Vitamin B
Deficiency of B vitamins can affect the tissues of your mouth and tongue, leading to burning mouth syndrome.
A 2006 study published in the Journal of Periodontology reports that a low serum vitamin B12 level can lead to burning tongue.
By boosting your intake of the B vitamins, you can effectively treat the symptoms.
- Include natural sources of this nutrient in your diet. Some good sources include whole-grain breads and cereals, wheat germ, eggs, milk, cheese, yogurt, salmon, oats, bran, avocados, bananas, turkey and liver.
- Alternatively, you can take a daily supplement of vitamin B complex. Consult your doctor for a suitable dosage.
4. Baking Soda
Baking soda is another effective home remedy. It helps neutralize the environment in your mouth and balance its pH level.
It can even help fight a mouth infection and excess growth of yeast inside your mouth. This helps reduce the symptoms and prevent further complications.
- Mix 1 to 2 teaspoons of baking soda in a glass of lukewarm water. Gargle with it a few times a day.
- Instead of using regular toothpaste, use a little baking soda to brush your teeth. Don’t do this on a regular basis, though, as baking soda is abrasive in nature and may erode the tooth enamel over time.
Honey is another natural treatment that can help soothe the burning sensation and even help fight infection. It can also reduce pain and inflammation.
- Apply raw honey directly on your tongue. Allow it to sit for several minutes before rinsing it off with cool water. Do it a few times a day.
- You can also mix 1 tablespoon of honey and ½ teaspoon of turmeric to make a paste. Apply it on your tongue, allow it to sit for at least 5 minutes and then rinse it off with cool water. Do this 2 or 3 times a day.
Lavender is another effective remedy for burning tongue. It helps disinfect the mouth and soothe the burning sensation.
The anti-inflammatory property of this herb helps ease pain and reduce inflammation. It even promotes rapid healing.
- Dab a little lavender oil on your tongue at night before going to bed.
- The next morning, rinse your mouth with cool water, then brush your teeth as usual.
- Do this daily.
7. Aloe Vera
Aloe vera gel is a soothing remedy for burning tongue syndrome. It also protects the sensitive tissues in the mouth and helps treat dry mouth, a possible cause of burning tongue.
- Thoroughly wash an aloe vera leaf and slit it open. Scoop out the succulent gel. Apply it on your tongue. Leave it on for 15 to 20 minutes, then rinse your mouth with cool water. Repeat 2 or 3 times a day.
- Another option is to rinse your mouth with aloe vera juice a few times a day.
Mint also helps reduce burning sensations in your mouth. This cooling herb has antibacterial property inhibits the growth of bacteria in the mouth, which prevents infection-related problems.
- Add a handful of freshly crushed mint leaves to a jug of hot water. Cover and allow it to steep for 1 hour, then strain it. Drink a glass of this mint-infused water 3 times a day.
- Chill a cup of strong mint tea in the refrigerator for 30 minutes. Drink this cool tea a few times daily.
- You can even chew a few fresh mint leaves or mint gum daily.
9. Cayenne Pepper
As cayenne pepper stimulates salivary glands, it can help treat symptoms associated with burning mouth. The compound capsaicin in it can also temporarily desensitize the nerves that cause the burning sensation.
A 2004 study published in the Journal of Oral Pathology and Medicine reports that use of systemic capsaicin is effective for short-term treatment of burning mouth syndrome.
However, due to major gastrointestinal side effects, it is not recommended for long-term use.
More recently, a 2012 study published in the Spanish journal Medicina Oral Patologia Oral y Cirugia Bucal stated that an oral capsaicin rinse can be used for controlling neuropathic pain.
- Mix ½ teaspoon of cayenne pepper in a glass of warm water. Use it to rinse your mouth a couple of times daily.
- You can opt to use capsaicin capsules, but only after consulting your doctor.
Note: These cayenne pepper rinse or oral capsaicin may initially cause an intense burning sensation in some people.
Glycerin can also reduce the burning sensation and soothe the affected area. It reduces dryness in the mouth, one of the reasons for burning tongue syndrome. It even keeps the tongue well-moistened, which is essential for quick healing.
For oral use, it is highly recommended to use vegetable glycerin.
- Dab your tongue with vegetable glycerin. Allow it to sit for as long as you can, then rinse your mouth with cool water. Repeat several times a day.
- You can even use a glycerin-based mouthwash to rinse your mouth a couple of times daily.
- Take all necessary steps to maintain good oral hygiene.
- Do oil pulling, an age-old Ayurvedic practice, daily for overall oral health.
- Use white toothpaste or any flavor-free toothpaste to brush your teeth.
- Avoid acidic foods and liquids like tomatoes, orange juice, carbonated beverages and coffee.
- Avoid alcohol and products with alcohol, as they may irritate the lining of your mouth.
- Do not use any kind of tobacco products.
- Avoid hot and spicy foods.
- Avoid processed and packaged foods, as the preservatives in them can worsen the problem.
- Before eating anything, always test the temperature of hot liquids and food.
- Take steps to reduce stress, as stress can worsen your condition.
- Consider using a tongue protector after consulting your doctor.
- If you notice no significant improvement in your condition, you must talk to your doctor immediately.