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Numb Tongue

Numb Tongue

A numb tongue indicates that the nerve giving sensory components to the tongue is damaged. People suffering from burning mouth syndrome or those taking antibiotics may also complain about this unusual sensation on the tongue.
Nicks J
Last Updated: Apr 9, 2018
A numb tongue is suggestive of tongue paresthesia, a condition that is typically marked by damage to the lingual nerve. The lingual nerve provides sensation of touch and taste to the tongue. It runs through the lower jawbone, before finally branching beneath the tongue. Thus, both the right and left side of the tongue contain a branch of lingual nerve that transmit the sensation of taste to a specific part of the brain, wherein it is correctly identified. In paresthesia, the lingual nerve is not working properly, which causes numbness and tingling sensation on the tongue. Unpleasant taste in mouth and inability to taste food are some of the most common symptoms of tongue paresthesia.
Tongue Paresthesia Causes
Poor Diet
Diet lacking in essential nutrients can also cause numbness on tongue. Vitamin B12 plays a crucial role in maintaining healthy myelin sheath, a protective coating around the nerves. No wonder, lack of vitamin B12 can damage the myelin sheath and eventually impair the lingual nerve. Other factors that may cause tongue paresthesia include deficiency of essential minerals such as potassium and calcium.
Infections of the Oral Cavity
Infection of herpes simplex virus (HSV-1) that causes oral herpes or contraction of fungal infections such as oral thrush may interfere with the functioning of the lingual nerve and cause paresthesia.
Stroke
A stroke in which blood circulation to a specific part of the brain is cut off, may also lead to sudden numbness in the tongue. In a stroke, the nerve cells (located in the brain) that identify the taste sensation are likely to get impaired. In other words, the area of the brain that is able to distinguish between different taste buds may get damaged. This can also make the tongue numb and lead to loss of taste.
Trauma
A physical injury to the tongue can also impair taste sensation. Specific points on the tongue have the taste buds. To be precise, taste buds lie on top of those little bumps (papillae) that you see scattered on your tongue. These taste buds contain taste receptor cells that relay information to the part of the brain that identifies taste. Damage to these taste buds due to trauma or poor functioning of these taste sensors that occurs with increasing age can also cause numb tongue.
Consuming piping hot food or gulping a chilled beverage can damage taste buds and temporarily cause numbness on tongue. Decay of gums, badly fitting dentures, tobacco chewing and chronic smoking are some of the other factors that can also impair the taste buds. Some types of fish such as eels, fugu and baracuda, upon consumption can interfere in your ability to taste food and eventually cause numbness on tongue.
Dental Surgery
Local anesthesia given during a dental surgery can also lead to numbness in tongue as they may damage the lingual nerve. It is a known fact that lingual nerve provides sensation of touch and taste to the tongue. Dental procedure such as wisdom tooth removal or root canal involves giving an injection in the gum of the tooth, to be removed. This injected liquid acts as an anesthetic and the area from where the tooth is to be extracted, becomes numb. As a result, the patient does not feel the pain, when extracting the tooth. However, the numbness can spread to the tongue and impair the lingual nerve.
Medication Side Effects
Certain medicines are notorious for producing some bothersome side effects such as numb sensation in the tongue. In some cases, it is observed that antibiotics used for the treatment of bacterial infection, trigger an allergic reaction that causes formation of blisters on the tongue, leading to partial or complete loss of taste. People who are taking any of the following medications may also experience numbness or tingling sensation on tongue:
  • Anticonvulsants
  • Narcotics
  • Opiates
  • Beta-blockers
  • Beta-alanine
Multiple Sclerosis (MS)
Paresthesia of the tongue may also suggest multiple sclerosis, a neurological disorder in which the immune system destroys the myelin sheath, a protective covering that encases the nerve fibers. In the absence of myelin sheath, the nerves find it very difficult to transmit electrical signals from the brain. These electrical disturbances can cause numbness and tingling in any part of the body depending upon the location of affected nerve. So, if the lingual nerve is affected, one may experience tongue paresthesia. Speech impairments have also been associated with MS patients.
Pregnancy and Numb Tongue
Numbness in tongue, is a common complaint among pregnant women. During pregnancy, women tend to develop allergy to certain foods such as fish, eggs and oily foods. So, consuming these foods may trigger an allergic reaction and cause tongue numbness. This may happen immediately or hours after taking these allergic foods. Apart from tongue numbness, pregnant women may also notice swelling in the arms and legs, which has often been attributed to edema (accumulation of excess fluid in the body tissues).
Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is solely for educating the reader. It is not intended to be a substitute for the advice of a medical expert.