Soothing a Burnt Tongue: Effective Relief Methods
Clinical content featured by Byte is reviewed and fact-checked by a licensed dentist or orthodontist to help ensure clinical accuracy.
We follow strict sourcing guidelines and each page contains a full list of sources for complete transparency.
Table of Contents
- Burnt Tongue
- Cool Your Tongue Down Quickly
- Additional Methods for Relief
- When to Get Medical Attention
When you burn your tongue, the first thing to do is to cool it down as fast as you can. This can soothe a burnt tongue quickly.
Eating something too hot can quickly scald or burn your tongue and leave you with pain and discomfort, making it hard to talk, eat, and drink normally for a few days or weeks until it heals.
While your burnt tongue is healing, avoid irritants, such as spicy foods, hot drinks or foods, and alcohol. Gargle with saltwater and consume milk products to help soothe a burnt tongue.
First-degree burns to the tongue are relatively mild. While uncomfortable, they can typically be managed on your own. More severe burns require medical attention.
Most of the time, a burnt tongue is the result of eating or drinking something that is too hot and has not cooled down enough to consume safely. Boiling liquids and even steam can cause a burnt tongue.
You will usually know right away on that first sip or bite that your tongue has been burned. The pain is usually sharp and immediate.
Your tongue is made up of little bumps called papillae that contain taste buds and sensory cells, the microvilli. When you burn your tongue, the papillae are damaged and swell up, disrupting your sense of taste.
Burns have varying degrees, ranging from first-degree to third-degree, with first being the most minor and third being the most severe. A first-degree burn only impacts the outer layer of skin and will usually heal on its own in a week or two.
Cool Your Tongue Down Quickly
Right after burning your tongue, work quickly to cool it down. Sucking on ice chips or drinking cold water can help to keep the heat from seeping further into the tissue of your tongue, and it can also feel good on a burn. The faster you can cool the tongue down, the quicker you will get relief and hopefully keep the burn from being as significant.
Drinking cool water can also help to keep the saliva flowing in your mouth, which can help to wash away bacteria and keep your burnt tongue from becoming infected.
Additional Methods for Burnt Tongue Relief
There are other ways to get relief for a burnt tongue.
- Suck on popsicles or a cold cloth.
- Gargle with a saltwater rinse.
- Consume milk products, as milk or yogurt can coat the tongue and offer relief.
- Avoid spicy and hot foods as well as tobacco products and alcohol.
- Take over-the-counter pain and anti-inflammatory medications.
- Try a topical anesthetic when pain is significant.
- Hold off on brushing your tongue directly as it heals.
A burnt tongue can be uncomfortable, but it is generally a mild condition that will heal itself within a week or two at the most. In the meantime, be careful with your sensitive tongue. Chew carefully, so you don’t further irritate it. Practice good oral hygiene to keep your mouth clean and free from infection.
When to Get Medical Attention
Anything beyond a first-degree burn will require medical attention. If the burn does not heal within two weeks, or it seems to get worse, consult a doctor.
A second-degree burn affects more than one layer of skin. It can cause blistering. A third-degree burn goes all the way into the deep layers of your skin, causing it to appear white. It can feel numb. Both need prompt medical care.
If the burn extends further beyond your tongue and into your throat, you will also need medical care. When it becomes difficult to breathe and swallow normally, it is time for emergency care. If other symptoms accompany your burnt tongue, such as fever or flu-like symptoms, it can be the sign of an infection that will also need medical treatment.
7 Tried and True Tips to Relieve the Sensitivity for Your Poor Burnt Tongue. (March 2021). Insider. Date Fetched: August 2, 2021.
Inflammation and Taste Disorders: Mechanisms in Taste Buds. (July 2010). Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences. Date Fetched: August 2, 2021.
Burns. (July 2021). U.S. National Library of Medicine (NLM). Date Fetched: August 2, 2021.
4 Ways to Soothe a Burnt Tongue and Mouth. (January 2020). Cleveland Clinic. Date Fetched: August 2, 2021.