4 Reasons For a Tingling Tongue, Ranked by Possible Severity

Pins and needles. It’s a sensation that, for many of us, is barely tolerable. When it happens in your feet, when your foot “falls asleep,” or when you sleep on a hand or on an arm oddly and end up with a numb, tingling hand, you probably shake it or try to walk it off. It’s unpleasant or painful, but we keep moving the limb until sensation returns to normal. But, what do you do when it’s tingling in your mouth and tongue? There’s no way to walk it off, and it’s all the more unpleasant for not having a good way to exercise your tongue. So, what causes a tingling tongue, how serious is it, and how can you treat it?

Reason #1: Stroke or TIA

Severity: Extremely High
Probability: Generally Low

This is probably the least likely reason you would experience tingling lips and tongue, but it is the most serious. Tingling tongue will not occur as a standalone symptom; strokes have a cluster of symptoms. The acronym to remember so you are ready to spot a stroke is B.E. F.A.S.T. It stands for balance (dizziness and loss of coordination), eyes (sudden trouble seeing), face (uneven expressions like a smile and weakness), arms (weak, uneven movement), speech (slurred speech, numbness in tongue), and time (seek immediate help).

What To Do

If you or someone you love is having stroke symptoms, dial 9-1-1 and seek immediate medical attention.

Reason #2: Food or Medication Allergies

Severity: Mild to Serious
Probability: Low to Moderate

If you experience a tingling tongue after eating or while eating, what you are eating may be to blame. Undetected food allergies can make a first appearance with tongue tingling or numbness. The discomfort may be accompanied by swelling in your throat or tongue.

What To Do

Keep track of what foods cause your tongue to tingle and follow up with your doctor (or allergist if you regularly see one). They will probably ask when you first noticed your tingling tongue, what foods or medications seem to aggravate your tongue, and if you have any other symptoms. Food allergies can rarely cause life-threatening reactions. If you notice swelling in your mouth or tongue and have trouble breathing, seem immediate emergency medical attention.

Reason #3: Nutrient Deficiencies

Severity: Mild to Moderate
Probability: Low to Moderate

There are several vitamins and minerals that are important for nerve health. A lack of certain B vitamins, particularly B12 or folate, can cause nerve problems that show up with symptoms like tingling in the hands, feet, and tongue. Low blood calcium can also cause tingling in the tongue.

What To Do

All of these nutrient deficiencies can cause serious health problems in the long-term if ignored. If you are having trouble because you are vitamin deficient, you should work to improve your diet, eating a wide variety of whole foods. It may help to consult with your doctor or seek help from a dietician. Your doctor can usually confirm vitamin deficiencies with a simple blood test if you’re not sure if that’s really the tingling tongue cause.

Reason #4: Canker Sores

Severity: Mild
Probability: Moderate to High

Canker sores can cause numbness or tingling in your mouth. These benign sores can cause quite a bit of discomfort. They can occur anywhere inside your mouth on the soft tissues. Sometimes, they may cause burning and tingling. Luckily, they are not usually serious, and they often clear up on their own.

What to Do

Because they are so uncomfortable, you may prefer to use home remedies to alleviate some of the discomfort. Antimicrobial rinses or saltwater rinses can sometimes help with canker sores. You can talk to your dental care team if canker sores are bothersome for you or are taking longer than expected to heal.

Seek Help For a Tingling Tongue

If you’re experiencing a tingling tongue and don’t know the reason, it’s always safest to consult with your doctor or dental care team. They can diagnose the problem and suggest a treatment plan to get rid of those bothersome pins and needles.

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