Tingling Tongue: Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

Tingling Tongue: Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

Every now and then we might feel the tip of our tongue a bit numb, experience a bothersome tingling sensation or even a sort of electric shock type of feeling. At first, nobody even pays attention to these symptoms, until several days pass and we notice they don’t go away. Tingling of the tongue is a form of paresthesia, along with burning, pricking, stinging, tickling and needles and pins sensation. It’s basically an alteration of our sensitivity, or an abnormal sensation.

Our tongue is a highly sensitive organ as it is, rich in blood vessels and nerve endings so any tingling tongue sensation, whether it’s actual tingling or numbness or a sort of electric shock, hints at a problem that most likely has to do with the sensory receptors of the tongue. There are multiple causes behind tingling tongue and range from medicine side effects, vitamin and mineral deficiencies or anesthesia side effects to serious conditions that require a careful and ample medical evaluation for correct diagnosis.

Tingling tongue causes

Tingling of the tongue is most likely due to nerve damage at the level of the sensory receptors of the tongue, but can also involve other parts of the nervous system. The sensory receptors of the tongue that may be subjected to damage and generate abnormal sensations include:
1) Thermoreceptors. They are nerve endings that detect hot and cold temperatures or changes in temperature.
2) Mechanoreceptors. These receptors perceive mechanical pressure.
3) Nociceptors. These sensory nerve endings generate pain in response to specific stimuli.
4) Taste receptors. As their name suggests, they help us perceive taste.

For the most part, people experience a tingling sensation in the tongue. However, some describe feeling numbness, while others a sort of numbing electric shock that deprives their tongue of the ability to feel. Both numbness and shock sensations may be a result of nerve compression and nerve damage or problems with the sensory centers of the brain where information from nervous impluses is decoded and reinterpreted.

What causes tingling of the tongue? Some of the most common causes for tingling tongue include:
1) Medicines. The accidental ingestion of topical anestethics, caustic substances (highly dangerous) as well as several prescription medicines can lead to tingling tongue. Although the tingling is usually transient, the circumstances leading to it may require the attention of a medical professional. As such, your doctor is the only one properly equipped to correctly diagnose and treat tingling of the tongue attributed to any type and form of medication.

Tingling tongue

2) Toxins. Both natural and artificial toxic substances we may ingest can cause a bizarre feeling of numbness or tingling of the tongue. Heavy metal intoxication as a result of fish consumption can result in  numbness or tingling of the tongue or other parts of the body. Some marine life forms contain natural toxins that can induce paresthesia. The possibilities are endless.

3) Local anaesthesia. Dental procedures are almost always done with anaesthesia, whether there are simple tooth extractions, root canal work or other more complex procedures that require surgery. Anaesthesia may cause temporary, short or long-term, or permanent nerve damage that may present itself as tingling or numbness sensations of the tongue or other parts of the oral cavity. It might be best to undergo an allergy test prior to having anaesthesia because many people are allergic to conventional anaesthetics and thus risk suffering an anaphylactic shock which may endanger their life.

4) Injury and trauma. Any form of injury and trauma to the tongue can result in permanent damage to the sensory receptors. Blows to the face, accidents such as bitting one’s tongue or tongue piercings all hold a certain risk of sensory damage which may take the form of tingling, numbness and transient pain.

5) Disease and infections. Tongue piercings and accidental bites can become infected without good oral hygiene and lead to sensitivity problems. Glossitis causes swelling and pain of the tongue and can alter its sensory receptors. Viral infections, particularly Herpes simplex infections, can produce significant physical discomfort through painful blisters and cold sores and tongue inflammation, potentially resulting in numbness. Shingles, which is caused by a varicella zoster virus, a virus that also causes chickenpox, can produce nerve damage as well, causing either hypersensitivity or paresthesia in the form of tingling, numbness or pins and needles sensations.

6) Nutrient deficiencies. It has been established that certain vitamins and minerals have a major impact on oral health, particularly B vitamins, iron and zinc. Vitamin B12 and iron are involved in red blood cell production and proper oxygenation of tissues, organs and muscles, tongue included. Zinc is great for immunity, helping prevent and ease infections, including those that may cause nerve damage.

But considering that tongue tingling and numbness have to do with nerve endings and sensory perception, calcium, sodium, potassium and magnesium are also needed to help promote nerve health and ensure proper communication of electrical impulses to nerve endings and muscles. So making sure we get enough of all of these essential nutrients is important. Nutrient deficiencies that are left to progress can produce the most bizarre of symptoms and encourage disease in all of its forms.

Whatever the cause may be, it is vital that you communicate all symptoms and concerns to your doctor and have him or her assess your health. Because even something as innocent as tongue tingling or numbness can have serious underlying causes:

1) Anxiety.
2) Migraines.
3) Burning mouth syndrome.
4) Cervical back pain (neck pain).
5) Hypothyroidism.
6) Facial paralysis.
7) Multiple sclerosis.
8) Stroke and transient ischemic attack (a sort of warning stroke that usually causes no permanent nerve or brain damage).
9) Brain tumours.
10) Allergic reactions.

Conclusion. A recurring or reoccurring tingling tongue sensation is best assessed by a medical professional to rule out more serious underlying disorders and establish its cause. Only based on our doctor’s findings can we tackle the issue effciently and opt for the best treatment for us. Because you don’t actually treat a tingling tongue. You treat the medical condition causing it. Prevention is just as important when it comes to all aspects of our health, so making sure we have all the essential nutrients our body needs is crucial.

Last Updated on by Marius Lixandru

14 thoughts on “Tingling Tongue: Causes, Symptoms and Treatment”

  1. I have nerve pain from a biopsy taken from under my tongue 4 years ago. The oral surgeon didn’t offer any guidance on how to manage the pain. I have tried several medications including neuronten and nortriptyline, and ibuprofen. I’ve tried acupuncture and had physical therapy with a specialist in facial pain and injury. Some of these have helped, but the pain is chronic and is exacerbated by eating and drinking and talking. Needless to say this has impacted my quality of life. Do you have any suggestions on how to manage the pain?

    • I am sorry to hear this, Mr. Goetz. Unfortunately, this is a question best suited for a medical professional who can examine you directly and recommend a solution based on the origin of your pain. Surgeries can cause different degrees of nerve damage and it is always a possibility that nerve damage can cause chronic, lifelong pain. What I can tell you is that maybe some small dietary and lifestyle changes can help you better manage your pain. For example, would you consider eating mashed food of the likes of baby food? This might help a little with the pain associated with chewing. Also, cold or hot foods could trigger the nerve pain or make it worse. Maybe room temperature food and beverages could help. You could also see a professional and rule out potential infections. It is always possible for an infection, bacterial or viral, to set in after any form of surgery, including something as small as a biopsy. Have you tried heat and cold therapy using heat or cold packs? An infrared lamp could temporarily help reduce pain and it works for nerve, muscle and joint pain. Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation is another solution you could try. Analgesics, antidepressants and anticonvulsants are typically recommended with neuralgia disorders, but talk to your doctor immediately if a prescribed medication is causing serious side effects. There are many options in terms of medication and, hopefully, you may find one that helps attenuate your pain. Also, talk to a doctor if you notice other symptoms aside from the pain, maybe a rash at one point, redness, tenderness, whatever you may think of. Wishing you lots of health.

  2. For two days I have been experiencing electric shock sensations that feel as if they are coming from my teeth (incisors and molars on both sides) and traveling back toward my ear lobes and to the back of my neck. I do not feel the shock sensation coming from my tongue. The wind in the area has been quite strong, so at first I thought it might be related to static, though I have never experienced these symptoms before. I have also been under considerable work related stress. My mother suggested I may have symptoms of a stroke since I have also felt tingling in my left arm and the fingers of my left hand lately. Any other ideas?

    • Hello, Aileen. If you’ve been outside even for a few minutes in strong wind, then yes, it’s possible to experience electric shock sensations anywhere in the head area. Strong wind and cold weather also cause severe headaches. It would be great if you could limit time spent outdoors in bad weather and cover up your head, neck and mouth really well with a thick, wool hat and a large scarf.
      Another possible cause would be cervical pain maybe from an arthritis. It can also be triggered by exposure to strong, cold wind. Or since you have been under a lot of stress at work, maybe it could be caused by working long hours at a desk.

      When the left arm is affected, one thinks of a heart attack rather than a stroke. Usually, symptoms of a stroke include:
      – Numbness in one part of the face. If you try to smile, only half of the muscles in your face respond, leaving the other half of your face drooping.
      – Arm weakness. If you’re asked to raise both of your arms up in the air and you can’t raise one of them or both because of weakness, then it’s possible you have had a stroke.
      – Difficulty speaking. Incomprehensible speech, slurred speech, not understanding words or what you’re being told or not being able to speak at all, all of a sudden, is a big red flag indicating a stroke.
      – Coordination problems, loss of balance, difficulty walking.
      – Dizziness, confusion, loss of memory, strong headache.
      – Muscle weakness or stiffness, tingling and pins and needles sensations.

      If you notice any of these symptoms, especially the face drooping, arm weakness and speech problems, call the hospital as soon as possible. The sooner a person having a stroke gets medical attention, the better. In any case, it is best to see a doctor and rule out any serious causes. Your electric shock sensations might just be from being out in strong wind and could go away after spending a couple of days indoors, where it’s warm. At the same time, seeing a doctor is important for your peace of mind, to rule out any serious underlying conditions, whether it’s a stroke, a mini-stroke, stress related high blood pressure or something else. Only a doctor can tell for sure after seeing you and running tests if necessary.
      Wishing you lots of health and hope to hear back from you with good news.

  3. Very hard pain like shock occurs while sleeping. It’s very painful and my doctor has no proper medicine for it. The pain comes automatically, there is no time to come, but it comes after sleeping. Please give suggestion.

    • Hello, Rehan. I’m assuming you are referring to pain in the tongue? Please answer the following questions:
      – Has your doctor inspected your mouth (teeth, gums, tongue, mucous membrane in the mouth, back of throat)?
      – Are there any signs of infection, disease or nutritional deficiency?
      – When has the pain started, how long does it last and what other symptoms, if any, have you noticed?
      – Do you have any other medical conditions and are you taking any medicine for them?
      Please answer these questions.

  4. How long does it take for antidepressants to leave the body, and how long does it take for the electric shock sensation to disappear?

    • Hello, Lavonia. The time it takes for antidepressants to leave the system may vary from person to person and medication to medication. Depending on how much of the medication you have been prescribed, how long you’ve taken it for (days, weeks, months, years), how strong it is, how it is synthesized in the body, what’s its half life, how quickly you choose to discontinue it, your individual state of health and other factors, you may expel a medication almost entirely (99.9%) in as little as 24 hours or in as long as 3 and a half weeks.

      And even with antidepressants that leave the system almost completely in one day, side effects like electric shock sensation and other abnormal sensations, flu-like symptoms, dizziness, insomnia, anxiety, depression etc. may occur over the course of several days, weeks or months, as part of antidepressant discontinuation syndrome or rebound depression. The antidepressant discontinuation syndrome may start within days or weeks of discontinuing the medication, while the rebound depression may take longer to occur (if it actually does), usually months afterwards. The human body needs time to readjust to the new levels of certain neurotransmitters and this fluctuation and readjusting may cause symptoms, including abnormal electric shock and other sensations.
      So you may experience this symptom several times until the antidepressant you’ve been on leaves your system, a few times afterwards or not at all. Experts recommend having your doctor lower your usual dose of antidepressants, slowly, over the course of weeks or months to prevent side effects. Hope this helps and wishing you lots of health!

  5. I had open heart surgery a little over 2 months ago. Since then I have been having numbness and tingling in my tongue. It is now also in my lips, the roof of my mouth, my gums, and nasal cavity. Is this cause for concern?

    • Hello, Diane. Given that you’ve had a complex surgery, it’s best to see your doctor about this. Only your doctor can tell you for sure what is causing the numbness and tingling tongue sensations and whether or not they are related to your condition, a side effect of the surgery or something else. Wishing you lots of health!

  6. On Friday the 15th I went in for bunion correction surgery and when the time came for me to go under they used general anesthetic to put me under and I can somewhat remember it hitting the tip of my tongue first and when I had woken up I had numbness in the tip of my tongue and I feel it would better be described as a blank feeling as I can feel it react but not like it used to and it is more of the inside of it is reacting to contact more than describing how it is like the taste buds have turned off. I have a post op appointment on Thursday and the feeling has persisted for 6 days now and I wanted to know if this is something that should be mentioned to the doctor or if it is nothing of importance and will pass soon.

    • The numbing and tingling tongue sensation can be a side effect of the anesthetic. It can last a few hours, days or even months; it’s difficult to tell. In any case, it is worth telling the doctor at the post op appointment about it. It’s better the doctor checks it out to rule out any underlying issues or in case symptoms change and you require a treatment of some sorts. It’s an important symptom as it may indicate possible nerve damage, so the doctor should be made aware of this.
      Wishing you lots of health, Ryle!

  7. Hi I when to dentist and had multiple shots of novocane Maybe 7 or 8 to just to pull a tooth.
    Had 3 filling so that required more novocane each time.a cap replaced, each time I went I told the dentist that my tongue was tingling. I have been to doctors but they don’t see anything so now I’m going to have patch testing done maybe allergie?

    • Hi, Sally. Well, dentistry anesthetics interfere with the activity of the nervous system in order to achieve the absence of pain. So it’s not at all unlikely for your symptoms to be related to the use of the anesthetic, especially the repeated use and multiple shots in one sitting, like in your case. The tingling tongue sensation and other side effects are a response to the anesthetic depressing the nervous system. However, as long as the anesthetic was delivered in correct amounts and in a correct fashion, the side effects should go away. It may be a couple of days or a couple of weeks or more, but they should, at least in theory, be temporary. It depends on how long it will take for the nerve block from the anesthesia to clear completely (and the signals traveling along nerves to re-establish themselves as before).

      Nevertheless, if you are having more work done on your teeth, then expect for the tingling tongue sensation to reoccur or even take longer to go away. It’s a good idea to have an allergy test just to make sure you are not allergic to the anesthetic your dentist is using, especially if you’re having more work done in the future. But if you continue to experience a tingling sensation in the tongue or related symptoms, or if the side effects increase in intensity, frequency or duration, you could talk to your dentist and ask him/her to change your anesthetic.

      If at any point during your dentist appointment you experience a drop in blood pressure, feel lightheaded, dizzy, experience nausea, tingling in hands or feet, arms or legs, abnormal heartbeat, swelling in the tongue or throat, difficulty breathing, let your doctor know immediately! Hope this helps and wishing you lots of health!

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