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What are the Most Common Causes of Tongue Numbness?

By Marisa O'Connor
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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There are many causes of tongue numbness. In the medical field, the condition is called paresthesia of the tongue, and it is most commonly caused by nerve damage. Damage to the brain, allergies, and pregnancy may also lead to numbness or tingling in the tongue. Multiple sclerosis and burning mouth syndrome can also cause paresthesia. A doctor should be consulted when someone experiences this symptom.

The most common cause of tongue numbness is nerve damage. Paresthesia is the medical term for numbness or a tingling sensation caused by nerve damage. It can affect any part of the body, including the tongue. The most common cause of nerve damage to the tongue are botched dental procedures like wisdom tooth extractions, root canals, or implants.

Another common cause of tongue numbness is brain damage or trauma. A stroke is an example of brain damage that can affect the nerves of the tongue. Blunt trauma to the head can also cause nerve damage that would result in numbness. The nerves in the brain affect the entire body, including the face and tongue. When nerve damage occurs in the brain for any reason, it can cause numbness or tingling in the tongue.

Allergies are another very common cause of tongue numbness. Food allergies will often cause tongue swelling or numbness. A common side effect of some antibiotics is the formation of blisters on the tongue, which is followed by numbness and tingling. Anyone experiencing these side effects should consult a doctor and change prescriptions if possible.

Pregnancy can also occasionally cause tongue numbness. It is very common for women to develop allergies during pregnancy, which can cause numbness, tingling, or swelling in the tongue. Numbness is commonly experienced in just about every part of the body during pregnancy for various reasons, including high blood pressure and water retention.

Burning mouth syndrome also causes tongue numbness. The cause of this disorder is not known, but its side effects include burning sensations and numbness in the tongue, lips, and gums. Hormonal imbalance or nutritional deficiency, particularly of vitamin B12, are believed to contribute to the onset of burning mouth syndrome.

Multiple sclerosis is another, less common cause of tongue numbness. Multiple sclerosis, also known as MS, is a neurological disorder that can cause numbness in many parts of the body, including the tongue. This numbness can cause speaking disorders and also can debilitate the capacity to detect the temperature of food, increasing the likelihood of burns.

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Discussion Comments
By anon1002416 — On Nov 16, 2019

My tongue is numb every day. Coffee and talking make it worse. I think it is the stress of talking, since I am an introvert and, in trying to withhold that information, the stress goes right to my tongue.

By anon995483 — On May 03, 2016

Having this crazy numbness on the tip of my tongue and cannot figure out why to save my life. It's been two days of non stop numbness. Also having problem with hands and arms going numb very easily. Is this nerve damage? Had dental work CB a tooth had to be pulled. This has been some time ago, so I can't see them as related.

By anon991241 — On Jun 06, 2015

Medication withdrawal (particularly psychiatric medication withdrawal), alcohol withdrawal and street drug withdrawal can all cause this as well.

By anon985148 — On Jan 13, 2015

I had problems with my tongue feeling numb 100 percent of the time. This went on for several years. Then, I started taking an antihistamine/allergy pill before bedtime and found that my tongue "woke up" overnight.

I went to an MD and he didn't know why my tongue was numb, but thought it was interesting that the allergy medicine made a difference. He did some food allergy tests and then another test. It turned out that I have an allergy to gluten. ("Gluten Intolerance")

The numbness has never come back, now that I avoid gluten.

By anon974494 — On Oct 18, 2014

I drank a coke the other night and I cut my tongue a bit on the tip. It healed but one spot on my tongue stayed numb. It also has like a small dark brown like dot on it that was never there. What do I do?

By anon955961 — On Jun 10, 2014

I've had my tongue double pierced for nearly 20 years and have never had a problem with it. Rather then gossip about something you clearly know nothing about, educate yourself. Like anything, a reputable piercer, quality follow up care and maintenance make a big difference when it comes to avoiding problems.

Just because something is "no longer in style" doesn't make it more dangerous. It wasn't "in style" when I had it done, so I guess I'll survive now that it's "out of style".

By anon944631 — On Apr 08, 2014

I ate a Healthy Choice Sweet Sesame Chicken Café Steamer today and the back half of my tongue went numb for an hour or so. I've had these particular meals before with no problems at all. Not sure what this one had in it, but it makes me wonder. I'm not advising against these at all, so don't take this the wrong way. This was an isolated incident.

By anon348423 — On Sep 16, 2013

I already have a disc complaint at L4-L5, but now I feel a particular type of numbness in my left hand, fingers and tongue.

By DylanB — On Dec 18, 2012

@JessicaLynn – That is the worst feeling! Many people think it's strange that I complain so much that my tongue is numb after having a cavity filled, but to me, it's comparable to pain.

My tongue feels like a thick, heavy burden in my mouth that isn't related to me at all when it's numb. I'm almost tempted to bite it in order to feel something, but I know that I won't feel anything until the feeling returns hours later, and then, I will regret having done that.

I think that the numbing gel that my dentist rubs on my gums before giving me the shot is what actually rubs off on my tongue and makes it go numb. I always try to keep my tongue away from it, but sometimes, it's impossible.

By lighth0se33 — On Dec 17, 2012

@seag47 – Things we eat can have a bad effect on the tongue. The tip of my tongue was numb after I sucked on a bunch of hard, sour candy. The feeling was gone for a couple of days!

By seag47 — On Dec 17, 2012

Having a coated tongue can feel similar to having a numb one. Whenever I eat something that leaves a film behind in my mouth, I almost lose a little bit of sensation in my tongue until it wears off.

One food that always causes this is donuts. I don't know why, but they always leave a coating on both my tongue and the roof of my mouth, and I don't get all my normal feeling back until after it has broken down. Even brushing won't remove all of it.

By eidetic — On Dec 12, 2012

@JessicaLynn - I imagine a numb tongue would make it really hard to talk and be understood. That also bring up a good point: if you're having trouble understanding what someone is saying when you've understood them before, they might have a numb tongue.

By JessicaLynn — On Dec 12, 2012

I actually had the side of my tongue go numb last time I went to the dentist. I guess the shot of anesthetic he gave me affected my tongue too. It felt so weird, and it took a really long time to go away after I left the office. It also made it really hard to talk.

When I went home, I tried to tell my roommate, "My tongue is numb." But she didn't understand a word I was saying until the numbness wore off a little bit more.

By indemnifyme — On Dec 12, 2012

@SZapper - I don't have my tongue pierced, and I don't think I ever will. From what I gather tongue piercing isn't so popular these days. Hopefully I won't ever experience any of the other numb tongue causes, because none of them sound like fun.

By SZapper — On Dec 11, 2012

@pleonasm - I've heard that too. When I was in high school, tongue piercing was very popular, so I had a lot of friends who had their tongues pierced. One of my friends actually did have nerve damage though. We were sitting around one day, and all of a sudden she said, "Why is my tongue numb?"

She ended up having to go to the doctor, who told her that the reason her tongue was numb was because of her piercing. I'm not totally sure what happened to her, because she moved shortly after that. But I'm hoping she's not still experiencing tongue numbness.

By croydon — On Jun 29, 2011

I once had to take a medication to get rid of a parasite that made my tongue numb. I think it might have been for amoebas, which I managed to pick up while visiting West Africa.

It was horrible medication.

The disease seemed preferable to be honest. The first round of drugs (there were two or three) was the one that gave my tongue numbness and tingling, although not numb enough to block out the foul taste that was always there.

I never did understand how a pill could leave such a bad taste in your mouth for hours afterwards, but it was metallic and awful.

I was a lot more careful about what I ate after having to go through that.

By pleonasm — On Jun 26, 2011

I've heard that you can cause nerve damage to your tongue by having it pierced.

I'm not against piercings, and I know that they can be risky, but I would hate to lose feeling in my tongue. And that kind of piercing seems like much more trouble than it is worth.

I've had friends who swallowed the bead at the end of the piercing, and had things get caught in it, not to mention it takes forever to heal and you can't talk while it is swollen.

And it can also cause irreparable nerve damage. That's not very sexy.

Of course, what is guaranteed to cause nerve damage is those people who get their tongue split into two pieces like a snake. I imagine their tongues feel very numb.

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