Numb Tongue? Check Out These 18 Possible Causes

A numb tongue isn't a disorder or disease in itself, but the effect of an underlying situation or condition. Most of the time, it's not related to anything serious.
Numb Tongue? Check Out These 18 Possible Causes

Written by Edith Sánchez

Last update: 22 June, 2022

The numb tongue is a symptom that answers to very varied causes. In most cases, it’s not something to worry about. However, as is often the case, there are also some situations in which this is a manifestation of something more serious.

Most of the time, the numb tongue is the effect of the consumption of a product or the action of a medication. Either way, it’s an uncomfortable sensation that you should consult your doctor about if it persists or appears accompanied by other symptoms.

The technical name for this condition is “paresthesia of the tongue.”

What are the possible reasons for the numbness of the tongue? We’ll discuss 18 of them below.

1. Smoking

High tobacco consumption can lead to tongue numbness. This is a biochemical effect that, by itself, is not indicative of disease in the mouth.

This reaction is also produced by the consumption of some drugs, such as cocaine or other stimulants. In this case, it’s the use of these harmful substances that is of concern, not the symptom as such.

2. Mouthwashes

Overuse of mouthwashes causes irritation of the lingual, buccal and pharyngeal mucosa. This also alters the balance of bacteria in the mouth.

One of the effects of this condition is numbness of the tongue. Tooth and tongue brushing is a healthy habit, rather than the use of mouth rinses.

Enjuague bucal causa adormecimiento de la lengua.
Mouth rinses with high concentrations of alcohol are irritating to the mucous membranes.

3. Anesthetics

The use of anesthetics is one of the most common causes of a numb tongue. This usually occurs when a person is undergoing dental treatment and local anesthesia is applied. Likewise, sprays or liquids for sore throat or toothache can cause this same effect.

4. Vitamin B deficiency

A lack of nutrients causes poor circulation, which can lead to numbness of the face, tongue, and other areas of the body. The deficiency that causes a numb tongue is usually in B vitamins. It’s a deficiency that causes a tingling sensation in the mouth and tongue, in particular.

5. Burns

A burn can lead to numbness of the tongue. This commonly occurs when something very hot is swallowed, to the point where an injury occurs.

This leads to a loss of tongue sensations, while there is pain or burning. It may last for a few hours or even several days.

6. Migraines

One of the common effects of a migraine is a numbness and tingling sensation in various areas of the body, including the tongue. This sensation may appear even before the migraine attack is generated and remain until the underlying picture is completely resolved.

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7. Allergies

One of the common manifestations of allergic reactions is a numb tongue. This is due to mucosal irritation, which is usually accompanied by swelling in the whole mouth, as well as skin symptoms such as itching and redness. It’s important to identify the substance causing the allergy.

8. Hypocalcemia

Hypocalcemia is an abnormal decrease in calcium levels in the blood. This doesn’t commonly cause any symptoms, but if the amount of calcium is very low, it may cause vague reactions, such as a numb tongue, and tingling in the mouth and hands. Severe deficiencies can even lead to confusion and seizures.

9. Stress

Stress and anxiety result in a number of physical symptoms. Sometimes, there may be a slight numbness in the tongue, coupled with other manifestations:

  • Dry mouth
  • Muscle tension
  • Pain in the abdomen
  • A constant feeling of fear
  • Insomnia

10. Hypoglycemia

Hypoglycemia is an abnormal decrease in blood sugar levels. Without the right amount of this component, the body cannot function properly. When levels are too low there’s often a numb tongue, blurred vision, tremors, pallor, and weakness.

11. Facial paralysis

Facial paralysis is a condition that occurs when the facial nerve is affected. This is also known as Bell’s palsy and is characterized by a loss of control over the muscles on one side of the face.

In addition to numbness in the tongue, this causes difficulty in movement and speech. The mouth may even appear to be crooked.

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12. Abnormal blood pressure

A numb tongue can also be the effect of a high or low blood pressure spike. In such cases, the blood supply is disturbed and this can affect the tongue muscle.

Tingling sensations in other parts of the body and symptoms such as nausea or headache are also common.

13. Diabetes

One of the many manifestations of diabetes is numbness in the tongue. This is a sign that insulin levels in the body are altered or are not being used properly by the body.

14. An infection

Fungal infections in the mouth can also result in a numb tongue, among other symptoms. This is often accompanied by lesions in the area, as well as rashes, bleeding, or mouth pain.

Candidiasis en niño causa lengua adormecida.
Thrush is another name for oral thrush. It can cause itching and numbness of the tongue in adults and children.

15. A hormonal disorder

Hormonal and metabolic imbalances cause paresthesias, including mild numbness of the tongue. This occurs most often in women who have reached menopause or in people with a condition that generates this type of imbalance.

16. Gastroesophageal reflux

Gastroesophageal reflux occurs when gastric juice rises from the stomach and can reach the pharynx. This substance is responsible for diluting food and promoting digestion.

If this acidic liquid returns to the throat or the oral cavity itself, it causes a numb tongue. However, it’s also possible that there may be pinching, burning, or pain in the pharynx.

17. A stroke

In a cerebrovascular accident (stroke), there’s an interruption of the blood supply to the brain. This is a serious condition that can initially cause numbness of the tongue, difficulty speaking, numbness, weakness, dizziness, visual problems, and a severe headache.

18. Other serious diseases

There are other serious diseases that result in a numb tongue. Multiple sclerosis or brain tumors are capable of causing such symptoms. Of course, in these cases, there are many other more obvious signs.

When to consult a doctor?

Some commonly used medications can also cause a numb tongue. Likewise, it’s common for this symptom to appear after surgery in which general anesthesia has been used.

If the numbness is very intense, appears suddenly for no apparent reason, is recurrent, or continues for a long time, the best thing to do is to consult a doctor. As you have seen, this symptom may be linked to a serious underlying condition.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Alba, L. H. (2007). Factores de riesgo para iniciar el consumo de tabaco. Rev. colomb. cancerol, 250-257.
  • Pipa Vallejo, A., & García-Pola Vallejo, M. (2004). Anestésicos locales en odontoestomatología. Medicina Oral, Patología Oral y Cirugía Bucal (Ed. impresa), 9(5), 438-443.
  • LORENTE, M. A., LILLO, O. C., CECILIA, C. G., & NAVAS, I. C. (2010). Parestesia con el uso de anestésicos locales. A propósito de dos casos. ODONTOL PEDIÁTR (Madrid), 18(3), 201-208.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.