Tongue Numbness: Why Does Your Tongue Feel Weird?

The tongue is a mighty muscle in constant action throughout the day. It usually works on reflex and doesn't need conscious effort. However, your tongue can go numb in certain situations and diseases. A numb tongue can stay for days, return to a normal state on its own, or need medical attention, depending on the underlying cause. This article tells you everything you need to know about a numb tongue and how to manage it.

What causes a numb tongue?

The condition where a tongue is in a state of temporary numbness is called paresthesia. There are many causes for a numb tongue. Reasons can be as random as a sudden allergy or a more serious health condition like stroke. Let's explore the common causes of a numb tongue in detail here.

ADVERTISEMENT

Nerve damage

You might have experienced your tongue turning numb after a dental procedure. This happens from damage to the lingual nerve — the major sensory nerve of the tongue. Wisdom teeth extractions in the lower jaw are commonly reported to lead to temporary loss of sensation and taste in the tongue. The rates vary from 10–20% and can be due to a needle prick during anesthesia or during bone drilling to remove impacted wisdom teeth.

Allergy

Many people are prone to allergies from certain food items, dust, or even pollen particles. One of the earliest signs of a sudden allergen attack is tingling, itching, and numbness of the tongue. This can be transient and resolve without other symptoms. It can also aggravate a life-threatening situation within minutes of the exposure. This serious condition is known as anaphylaxis.

Stroke

One of the most serious sequences associated with a numb tongue is a type of stroke known as a transient ischemic attack (TIA). This is usually caused by a brief lack or cut-off of blood supply to the brain and manifested as one-sided facial drooping, a numb tongue, slurred speech, dizzy vision, and a growing weakness along the arms of the affected side. In such instances, immediate medical attention is required.

Facial palsy

This condition affects the muscles of half of the face and is commonly caused by viruses including varicella-zoster, herpes simplex, and Epstein-Barr. Common symptoms include drooping of the lips, inability to smile and talk, and loss of tongue sensation in the affected side.

ADVERTISEMENT

Autoimmune diseases

Multiple sclerosis and systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) are two autoimmune conditions that can involve a numb tongue due to damage to the nerves in the tongue. These autoimmune diseases are triggered when your body's defense cells or immune cells fail to distinguish between body cells and foreign cells, ultimately attacking your cells and organs.

Vitamin deficiencies

Certain vitamins like vitamin D and vitamin B complex support nerve health. A chronic deficiency of these vitamins can manifest as nerve damage and tongue numbness. Besides vitamins, calcium deficiency has also been linked to poor nerve health.

Neck-tongue syndrome

This is a rare neurological condition with sharp pain in the neck during movements and an accompanying abnormal sense in the tongue. It can make the tongue feel like an electric shock is passing through it. The main cause is a sudden compression of specific cervical nerve roots in the neck region.

Psychological causes

Research reveals anxiety disorder and depression can be a cause for a sudden numb tongue — a condition known as psychogenic lingual paresthesia. This condition is more frequently observed in women, with a peak incidence in menopausal women between the ages of 50 and 70.

Medications

Drugs prescribed for glaucoma and seizures can have a numbing effect on the tongue. Once you stop the medicines, the condition usually reverses. It's best to consult with your doctor for alternatives before you decide to stop a medicine abruptly.

ADVERTISEMENT

What are the symptoms associated with a numb tongue?

A sudden numb tongue can feel weird and frightening. While it is not a thing to worry about in most cases, it's best to be ready to perceive prominent signs indicating a more serious condition.

tongue numbness symptoms

While mostly temporary, it can take weeks or months to come back to its normal health state, depending on the cause.

How to manage a numb tongue

Any of us can suffer from a numb tongue at some point, so don't panic. Here are the dos and don'ts for you once you realize you are experiencing numbness in your tongue.

When to see a doctor

A numb tongue often recovers on its own. However, you need to be aware of certain cases when delaying treatment can be dangerous:

  • In case it persists beyond two weeks after a teeth extraction, you should consult your dentist. They might refer you to specialists who deal with nerve injuries.
  • If you notice signs of a stroke, act fast and seek immediate medical support.
  • If a mild allergy proceeds quickly to a serious anaphylactic shock, dial the emergency medical helpline.
  • In case you are suffering from persistent numbness in your tongue without any apparent reason, visit your doctor.
ADVERTISEMENT

Your physician can recommend therapies targeted at the causes. It can range from medications for allergies and clinical stabilization in cases of neck-tongue syndrome to even surgeries in stroke patients.

Once you visit a doctor, they might recommend any one of the following, depending on what the cause is:

  • Recommend change in sleeping and bruxism (teeth grinding) habits
  • Advise you to reduce stress and anxiety and seek counseling if needed
  • Prescribe appropriate supplements to overcome deficiencies in the diet
  • Prescribe antihistamine drugs or injections to combat a severe allergy
  • Prescribe drugs that dilate blood vessels to revert a potential stroke
  • Refer you to a specialist for further investigations and targeted therapy

Your dentist is the best person to diagnose the exact reason behind tongue numbness. You can also consult an allergy specialist or a brain specialist if you notice other prominent symptoms besides a numb tongue. The key is to be aware of your medical history, causes, and symptoms and act accordingly.

FAQ

Key takeaways:
4 resources

ADVERTISEMENT

Leave a reply

Your email will not be published. All fields are required.