Burning your tongue (sometimes referred to as burning your tastebuds) is right up there with canker sores when it comes to annoying oral pain — especially when you know you just needed to wait for that tea to cool a few minutes longer!
Your tongue is cover in tiny little bumps called papillae. When you eat or drink something that’s too hot, you can damage the top layer of the papillae, which can cause redness and blisters if severe enough. Your taste receptors will also not be able to function properly, which is why nothing has much taste and your mouth feels kind of cottony for a few days after the burn occurs.
Thankfully, cells in the mouth regenerate extremely quickly and you shouldn’t be in too much pain for long. Still, it’s important to take care of your mouth while it’s healing. Eat soft foods and avoid anything crunchy, spicy, acidic, or sharp, which can aggravate the damaged skin and sores. And, just like a burn elsewhere on your body, your burned tongue can become infected if it isn’t kept clean. Try rinsing out your mouth with warm water after you eat to make sure food particles don’t have the chance to get stuck and turn into bacteria. If your tongue continues to swell, develop blisters, and if you develop a fever, see your doctor or dentist immediately for treatment.
As for soothing that burn, you can get relief and numb the tongue slightly by sucking on ice chips or eating a popsicle or some ice cream (just be sure to brush your teeth afterward!). Milk can also soothe the burn and since it coats the tongue, can provide more lasting relief. An over-the-counter pain reliever can also help, especially if the burn is severe.
Burning your tongue is never fun, but thankfully it’s easily preventable. Just give that food or drink an extra minute or two to cool, and you’ll be all set. After all, that pizza will taste much better with your taste buds intact!