Numbness or tingling ("pins and needles") sensations in the tongue, medically known as paresthesia of the tongue, most commonly occur due to damage to the nervous system. The medical term for the absence of sensation is anesthesia. Damage to the lingual nerve that supplies the tongue has been reported as a complication of dental procedures or surgery, such as wisdom tooth extraction, implants, or root canal procedures. Other conditions that damage the nervous system, like multiple sclerosis, as well as brain conditions such as stroke, can also cause numbness and tingling of the tongue. Sometimes, these sensations extend to involve the lips and/or jaws. Tingling of the tongue associated with nerve damage can occur both before and after eating.
Other causes of numbness or tingling sensation in the tongue
- Nerve Injury From Dental Procedures
- Vitamin B12 Deficiency
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Causes of Numbness or Tingling Sensation in the Tongue
Bell's Palsy (Facial Nerve Problems)
Bell's palsy is one type of facial nerve paralysis. The seventh cranial nerve controls the muscles of the face, and although scientists do not know the exact cause of Bell's palsy, they think it may be due to nerve damage from an infection, for example, the flu, common cold viruses, and more serious infections like meningitis. The symptoms of Bell's palsy vary from person to person, but can include mild weakness to total paralysis, dry eye, dry mouth, eyelid drooping, drooling, mouth drooping, dry mouth, changes in taste, and excessive tearing in one eye.
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Burning Mouth Syndrome (BMS)
Burning mouth syndrome (BMS) is a condition that causes pain in the mouth. BMS may be caused by menopause, dry mouth or allergies. Signs and symptoms include tingling or numbness of the tip of the tongue, bitter or metallic taste, and dry or sore mouth. Treatment depends upon the cause of your burning mouth syndrome.
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A stroke is an interruption of the blood supply to part of the brain caused by either a blood clot (ischemic) or bleeding (hemorrhagic). Symptoms of a stroke may include: weakness, numbness, double vision or vision loss, confusion, vertigo, difficulty speaking or understanding speech. A physical exam, imaging tests, neurological exam, and blood tests may be used to diagnose a stroke. Treatment may include administration of clot-busting drugs, supportive care, and in some instances, neurosurgery. The risk of stroke can be reduced by controlling high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, and stopping smoking.
There are a variety of diseases and conditions that can cause tongue problems, discoloration, and soreness. Though most tongue problems are not serious. Conditions such as leukoplakia, oral thrush, and oral lichen planus may cause a white tongue while Kawasaki syndrome, scarlet fever, and geographic tongue may cause the tongue to appear red. A black hairy tongue may be caused by overgrown papillae on the tongue. Canker sores, smoking, and trauma may cause soreness of the tongue.
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Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.