Most people experience a feeling of pins and needles in their limbs at some point in their lives, but have you ever had it happen to your tongue? You might be surprised to learn that your tongue can go numb or tingle for many reasons.
What Causes a Numb or Tingling Tongue?
Sometimes the numbness or tingling resolves on its own with no further issues, like when you bite your tongue. However, other times that sensation can indicate a more serious underlying condition.
Lack of Vitamins & Minerals
The human body requires certain vitamins and minerals to function properly. If you don’t get enough of these crucial elements you may experience tingling in your mouth. Common vitamin and mineral deficiencies that can cause this include iron, zinc, B vitamins (especially B12), calcium, and phosphorus.
Also known as mouth ulcers, canker sores can occur on your mouth, gums, and under your tongue. They can be quite painful and cause a burning or tingling sensation. Canker sores generally heal within a week or two, but you should see a doctor if it doesn’t clear up, you have significant pain, or develop a high fever.
Hypoglycemia is low blood sugar. Though it’s often associated with diabetes, anybody can develop the condition, especially if you skip meals. Other symptoms include weakness, feeling extreme hunger, sweating, dizziness, irritability, and confusion.
When you don’t have enough calcium in your blood you may experience tingling in your mouth, fingers, and toes. You could also develop muscle twitches, cramps, or overall stiffness of your limbs, dizziness, or even seizures if left untreated. Hypocalcemia is usually caused by underlying medical conditions, like kidney disease, cancer treatments, or pancreatitis.
Migraines are intense headaches that can have a range of symptoms, including tingling or numbness of the tongue. In most cases, the cause of a migraine is unknown, but you may also experience visual issues, sensitivity to light and sound, and nausea and vomiting.
Allergic reactions are common and can affect your tongue, especially in cases of food and medicine. You may also experience swelling of the face, difficulty swallowing or breathing, itching, stomach cramps, nausea, vomiting, and lightheadedness.
Some psychological conditions, like anxiety, can lead to numbness or tingling of the tongue as a psychosomatic response. It’s a condition known as psychogenic oral paresthesia.
A stroke occurs when a clot cuts off blood flow to your brain. Numbness or tingling in your tongue is generally not the only symptom of a stroke. You may also experience:
- A terrible headache often with a stiff neck
- Vision disturbances
- Difficulty communicating, especially with speech
- Drooping of one side of your face
- Weakness or numbness in half of your body, primarily your face, an arm, or a leg
- Difficulty walking and keeping your balance
Occasionally, people experience partial seizures which only affect a part of the brain. As a result, they may experience tingling or numbness related to the seizure activity.
Commonly known as MS, multiple sclerosis occurs when your immune system attacks your body, mainly the nerves in your brain and spinal cord. MS can make speaking, chewing and swallowing difficult, which in turn increases your risk of biting your tongue. Other symptoms of MS include:
- Balance issues that make walking difficult
- Weakness in different parts of your body
- Extreme fatigue
- Vision disturbances
- Difficulty urinating
Nerve Damage to Your Tongue
This is most common after a tongue piercing or dental work. When it happens during dental work, the condition generally resolves over a few weeks. A tongue piercing may permanently damage your nerves, so if the issue doesn’t resolve within a few weeks of the piercing, you should see your doctor.
Though it’s extremely rare, some patients with oral cancer experience mouth numbness. It’s usually related to cancer caused by alcohol or tobacco use or HPV (human papillomavirus) infections.
Finding a Diagnosis for Your Numb or Tingling Tongue
If you bite your tongue, the cause of your numbness or tingling is clear and you can expect it to resolve within a few days at most. What if you don’t know the cause or things don’t improve? You should contact a doctor to have your condition evaluated if:
- The numbness or tingling persists for several days with no improvement.
- You can’t explain the symptoms.
- The numbness or tingling spreads or becomes a recurrent issue.
- Over-the-counter medications don’t help with the pain.
- You develop a high fever with the tongue issues.
- The numbness and tingling impacts your ability to speak, eat, or drink.
You should be able to tell your doctor about the onset and duration of the symptoms, if it affects your sense of taste, and if you have any other issues in your mouth. If the cause is not apparent, your doctor may request more testing to reach a diagnosis.
Treatment for Numb or Tingling Tongue
Treatment depends on the cause of the tongue numbness or tingling. Generally, treating the underlying causes is the way to resolve or manage the symptoms.
Regular dental check-ups can be an important step in identifying many of these causes, including oral cancer. If you’re due for a check-up or have some concerns about your oral health, the team at Jefferson Dental & Orthodontics is here for you. Book an appointment at the office nearest you.