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 impulses 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 anesthetics, 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 anesthesia. Dental procedures are almost always done with anesthesia, whether there are simple tooth extractions, root canal work or other more complex procedures that require surgery. Anesthesia 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 anesthesia because many people are allergic to conventional anesthetics and thus risk suffering an anaphylactic shock which is life-threatening and requires immediate medical attention.

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 biting 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.

Signs and symptoms

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 tumors.
10) Allergic reactions.


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 efficiently 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.

This post was updated on Monday / July 20th, 2020 at 7:03 PM

26 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!

  8. I have been looking everywhere for information. I have gone to several doctors including a neurologist. No one seems to know what is going on. It started out when I would wake up in the mornings and in between sleep and waking up I would feel a sharp electrical stabbing to the front of my tongue. Kind of like the tip sides and top but as always in the same spot about 80% of the time the other times it might move over to the other side. It jolts me up and then they will be pain for anywhere between 2 seconds to 30 minutes afterwards. It’s very random. I can have one attack every two or three weeks or I can have 6 attacks in a 30 minutes span. It never happens when I’m fully awake. I was recently diagnosed with fibromyalgia and benign fasciculation disorder. I started twitching all over my body widespread that has been thoroughly checked out by my neurologist. But this is completely different with the electrical shock feeling I’m desperate to understand what this is or any direction. Thank you!

    • Hello, Dana. I’m sorry to hear about what you are going through. It’s just awful not knowing what is causing certain symptoms. According to experts, a tingling tongue sensation, jolts or similar symptoms may indicate some kind of nerve damage. Causes for muscle cramps, spasms, or other forms of contractions, including tingling tongue sensation, are varied and may include: injury, vitamin and mineral deficiencies (B vitamins, magnesium and other electrolytes, vitamin D), side effects of certain medication (medication for insomnia, anxiety, depression and other mental disorders, dizziness or various gastrointestinal conditions, urinary tract and respiratory infections or conditions), anesthesia, fatigue, caffeine from chocolate, green tea, black tea, white tea, energy drinks, coffee etc.

      The issue may seem serious but resolve on its own over time or it may not. It’s extremely difficult to tell as long as the cause behind the symptoms is unknown. Now, it’s good you are investigating the symptoms with a neurologist and a diagnosis such as benign fasciculation disorder usually means more serious causes such as ALS or multiple sclerosis have been ruled out. This being said, it’s not easy identifying the cause.

      Talk to your neurologist about when the symptoms started, how they progressed until the present and whether you associate them with events, lifestyle habits or dietary choices (for example, have you had surgery, dental work etc.). Try to eliminate possible triggers from your diet and lifestyle (for example, try to get enough sleep, discontinue alcohol and caffeine intake from all sources). Consider the medication you may be taking, if you are taking any, and what side effects it may cause. Talk to your neurologist about supplementing with magnesium, a dietary mineral and electrolyte directly involved in all aspects of muscle and nervous system activity as well as beneficial for mental health, especially anxiety (although know that supplementation will take time to produce results).

  9. I have been Desperately Seeking for answers as to my tongue issues. I have gone to many doctors including a neurologist and they all have no clue. It only happens while I’m waking up that in between sleep and being awake. I will get this quick electrical stabbing shock to the tip, top or sides of my tongue. 80% of the time it’s always in the same spot however towards the side top tip. There might be pain afterwards for a little while or there might be none. Sometimes it will happen once every few weeks, twice a week or I’ve had some happen 6 times within a 30 minute time span. I would say this is been going on for about 8 months. It never happens when I’m fully awake. I have had a lot of dental work done this past year. Root canals, about 12 feelings lots of shots done and I do remember them dropping a tool on my tongue and it calls a lump, bleeding, basically like a gash. I’ve also been recently diagnosed with fibromyalgia and benign fasciculation disorder. In February I started mysteriously twitching all over my body widespread but that feeling is completely different than what the shocking feeling I get in my tongue and my tongue does not twitch. Any opinions would be greatly helpful that I can present for my daughters to look at. Thank you so much!

    • Reading your second comment, it’s not unlikely for the dental work to have produced some nerve damage. Root canal work, filling and anesthesia shots are bound to produce some degree of nerve damage, not to mention the incident with them dropping a tool on your tongue. Did the electric shock-type of sensation in your tongue start before or after/around the time you were having dental work done? Are you currently having more dental work or planning to in the near future? How long as it been since the last dental work you’ve had? You might be onto something here, Dana, and I think this aspect is worth bringing up to your neurologist.

      Also, how long have you had dental fillings and what kind are they: composite or silver-amalgam fillings containing mercury and other metals (silver, copper, tin)? Some people may experience muscular and neurological symptoms such as electric shock sensations in the tongue or tongue zaps as a form of delayed reaction to dental amalgam used for tooth fillings. Do you also experience a bitter, metallic taste in the mouth? Although fibromyalgia can also cause electric shock sensations in muscles, including the tongue or other parts of the face such as the lips, I think it’s worth bringing up the issue of the dental work you’ve had with your neurologist. Hope this helps and wishing you lots of health, Dana!

  10. I have a stinging pain in the tip of my tongue.It’s now started to twitch every once in a while.I have no insurance and I’m getting very depressed behind this.I need help for this rare disease with no cure.

    • I’m sorry to hear about your situation, Archie. But you do need to see a doctor, especially if the tingling tongue problems become worse. Have you considered any of the following: recent dental work or anesthesia? Are you currently on any medication? Have you suffered some form of injury to your tongue? Have you considered nutritional deficiencies such as magnesium, potassium or calcium? Are you allergic to anything? Have you noticed any other symptoms that have started around the same time as the tingling tongue? It’s important that you consider these factors and see a doctor for a diagnosis. Wishing you lots of health, Archie!

  11. I started experiencing a sharp electrical shock to my tongue about a month ago, which only occurs at night while sleeping. The first time it happened, the entire left side of my tongue felt like it was electrocuted. Since then I have had about six similar episodes, mostly affecting the tip of my tongue, with the same electrical shock sensation. It happened last night and the night before. I had dental work done (tooth extraction) roughly two months ago and I’m wondering if the dentist did something to a nerve. I’m at the point where I’m afraid to go to sleep at night, not knowing when and if it will occur again. Does my sleeping position have anything to do with it? I’m wondering why it only happens at night when I’m asleep. I’ve started keeping a journal to track dates/times of the occurrences. It typically happens between 1:00am-3:00am. I have an appointment with my PCP in a couple of weeks. Thoughts? Thanks!

    • Hi, Loreal. There can be so many different causes behind an electric shock type-sensation in the tongue. One of the most common, potential causes is dental work. Tooth extractions, anesthesia, dental implants, anything really can affect the nerves and the effects can be longer-lasting. It may take some time to recover from such a thing and the timeline can vary widely from person to person (days, weeks, months). It’s a great first step to go see your doctor to get an idea of what kind of tests you can get done to identify the cause behind the electric shock sensation in the tongue you have been experiencing.

      It could help to think about what you’ve been doing or eating lately and if and how such aspects may trigger the electric shock sensation in your tongue. For example, if it’s more likely to happen after a tiring day or on days you’ve eaten something that’s too cold, too hot, too spicy or too hard to chew or after certain foods. Tell the doctor if you are on any medication too. If you are, take a look at the medication package insert to see what side effects are listed, including apparently innocuous side effects such as nutritional deficiencies (for instance, lower magnesium, potassium levels affect nervous system and muscle activity and can result in side effects such as tingling sensations, pins and needles or electric shock sensations in the tongue, hands, arms or a foot, even head, neck, back or chest). Lastly, tell the doctor if you’ve experienced any other symptoms, however unrelated they may seem. It could help with finding out the cause. Usually, the choice of sleeping position does not cause or represent a trigger for electric shock sensations in the tongue. Hope this helps and wishing you lots of health, Loreal!

  12. Hi Marius! Thanks for your reply and information. I went to the ED at 3:00 this morning, as I was having body tremors, which I’ve never had before. I bolted out of bed, as it awakened me. I felt disoriented and scared and had my daughter call 911. All blood work and head CT came back normal and I have been referred to a neurologist, but couldn’t get an appointment until SEPTEMBER 18!!! The ED doctor said the electrical shock sensation is most likely trigeminal neuralgia. She said the tremors are unrelated and probably caused by anxiety. I have never had anxiety until the electrical shocks to my tongue began. I’m scared to even try and sleep lying down, in fear of having another tremor. What are your thoughts?

    • Hi, Loreal. It’s great that the blood work and CT scan came back normal. And I’m sorry it’s taking so long until you can see a neurologist. A diagnosis can help a patient deal with pain better, more effectively.

      As for the anxiety, unfortunately, it adds to the difficulty of the situation. On the bright side, anxiety can be managed. One thing I can think of that has helped me immensely with my anxiety (brought on by both health issues and stressful life events) is supplementing with magnesium. I’ve wrote about this in several other articles and I still stand by it: magnesium supplements are good for anxiety. Great, actually! I was supplementing with about 300 mg of magnesium a day, sometimes more, and this really helped me bring my anxiety levels down and prevent more serious episodes. See my article on magnesium forms: which to choose to help you with choosing the best form of magnesium for you. In the menu above, the health section, nutrition page, you can find more information on the different forms of magnesium and their health effects. You can talk to your doctor about supplementing with the mineral to help you overcome the anxiety from the electric shock sensations in the tongue and, together, determine the right intake for you. Would love to know if it helps you, but remember it may take some time to see results. Wishing you lots of health, Loreal!

  13. My mom ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis) symptoms started out with a “foot drop” on her left foot. From there her left leg lost all muscle tone and all the entire left leg muscles was almost gone. Also her fingers and thumbs “contract” at times. Left arm is losing muscle tone too,she have been suffering from amyotrophic laterals sclerosis (ALS) disease for the last seven years and had constant pain which really get us worried, especially in her knees.

    • I’m sorry to hear that, Carlos. It must be a difficult diagnosis for your mom and the entire family. Wishing your mom lots of health!

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