Here's What You Should Do If You Burn The Top Of Your Mouth

Unlike a burn to the hand, a burn on the roof of your mouth is a little harder to reach. What should you do in the moments following an accidental sip of scalding hot coffee?

Dr. Sam Mandell, a surgeon at the UW Medicine Regional Burn Center at Harborview Medical Center, tells Right as Rain that generally speaking, food items exceeding 110 degrees Fahrenheit are hot enough to cause surface-level burns. As a frame of reference, consider your favorite cheesy pizza. According to Fine Cooking, mozzarella cheese must be heated to 130 degrees Fahrenheit in order to fully melt. Not only is that high enough to cause a superficial burn, but food temperatures over 120 degrees Fahrenheit can induce second-degree burns in children, explains Dr. Mandell.

Just like any other burn, mouth burns can come in varying degrees of severity. First-degree mouth burns impact the outermost layer of the skin and often cause redness, according to Self. Second-degree burns penetrate both the first and second layers of the skin and are characterized by blistering, pain, and swelling. Third-degree burns on the roof of the mouth can result in discoloration and temporary numbness. Most of the time, thankfully, top-of-the-mouth burns are generally mild (via Right as Rain).

How to cool a burn on the roof of your mouth

"When you drink something that's too hot, you realize right away and stop drinking, so it's a small amount and a short contact time," Dr. Mandell tells Right as Rain. However, Dr. Susan L. Besser, a primary care physician at Mercy Medical Center, tells Self that some food items like hot cheese have the capacity to stick to the roof of your mouth. That longer contact time can result in second-degree burns.

Regardless of the burn degree, Dr. Besser explains that the body will shed the dead skin (per Self). For a first-degree burn, this shedding is imperceptible to humans. However, for a second-degree burn, the body will noticeably shed the outermost layer of the skin.

After burning the roof of your mouth, you'll want to cool the affected skin. To do so, MedicalNewsToday suggests drinking cool water to minimize the pain and swelling. You'll want to refrain from icing the area, as ice cubes can adhere to the damaged skin and worsen the burn. Alternatively, consuming milk, yogurt, or honey can help keep the area moist and may relieve irritation or accelerate wound healing. Self also suggests the use of ibuprofen or over-the-counter oral medications, such as Chloraseptic or Orajel. A mild mouth burn can take up to seven days to heal, but be sure to consult with your physician if the condition worsens or fails to improve (per Self).