This Is What Really Happens When You Burn Your Tongue

A fresh cup of coffee, a steaming plate of food, or a cookie fresh out of the oven are all delicious and can quickly take a person from a frown to a smile. But they all carry that unique risk that only comes with hot food. Each and every one of them can leave your mouth feeling battered, blistered, and burned.

Goodbye good day and sayonara smile. A burned mouth is the kind of thing you find yourself complaining about off and on for the rest of the day. Whether you're working, relaxing, or trying to eat, the pain seems to linger. Every bite you take just reignites the pain. And if it seems like things taste a little different after you burn your tongue, well, they just might.

Dr. Alan S. Berger at ENT specialty group, BergerHenry, explains that our tongues function differently after they've been burned (via BergerHenry). Until they heal, food may taste differently because the taste buds are not functioning normally. Additionally, Berger also explains what happens to our tongues when we burn them.

How to ease the pain after burning your tongue

The tongue is covered in small bumps that we call taste buds. Dr. Berger explains that those bumps we see are actually called papillae (via BergerHenry). Each papillae contains hundreds of thousands of structures called microvilli. These microscopic structures resemble small fine hairs and their main function is to transmit messages to the brain. It is actually through the microvilli that we are able to taste things and determine the texture of the foods we eat. Unfortunately, it is the microvilli that suffer the most when we eat something too hot.

Dr. Berger explains that there is no way to undo the damage once we burn our tongues. We simply have to let the wound heal. Thankfully, there are ways to help alleviate the pain. Eat This, Not That! spoke with Dr. Cedrina L. Calder, M.D., and she suggested the first thing a person should do is spit out the hot food or drink to avoid further burns. Next, hold cold water or dairy in your mouth to cool the affected area. Once the area is cool, it should be kept clean with regular salt water rinses by swishing the mixture around in your mouth before spitting it out again.

This is a suggestion seconded by Colgate. The company, best known for its dental care supplies, also suggests sipping cold water and avoiding hot, spicy, or acidic foods until the burn heals.