Piping hot pizza. A steaming cup of espresso. Some things are too good to resist — but these hot treats can also unleash some serious pain when they burn the roof of your mouth.
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Ouch! The damage may be done, but can you get some relief from that burn? Otolaryngologist Micah Timen, MD, offers his expert advice.
The roof of your mouth, or palate, includes the ridgy, hard palate in the front and the smooth soft palate in the back. And when you burn any part of your palate, you definitely know it. Unlike burning mouth syndrome, a burn on the roof of your mouth will occur right after you eat or drink something hot.
“Your palate is covered in a layer of soft tissue that contains a network of nerves that are sensitive to hot foods and drinks,” explains Dr. Timen. “A burn in your mouth can be painful but usually heals quite well on its own.”
After a burn, the scorched area may be sensitive, tender and painful. These remedies can help you feel better while your mouth recovers from the mishap:
First order of business: Cool down your mouth. It will provide some quick relief and may help minimize the damage.
“Swishing cold water in your mouth feels good and is a safe way to stop the burning right away,” advises Dr. Timen. “You can also put a spoonful of ice chips in your mouth. Use small amounts at a time, or else the ice could stick to the roof of your mouth.”
Who says a popsicle is only for a hot day? Popsicles are great for a hot mouth, too. “Any type of frozen treat will have the same cooling effect as cold water or ice,” Dr. Timen says.
Your may have learned to swish warm saltwater to relieve the pain of a canker sore — and this age-old remedy may also help with other mouth sores and injuries, including a burn.
“Salt has a drying effect on tissues, which could help them heal a little sooner,” Dr. Timen says. “We don’t have any studies proving that saltwater helps with mouth burns, but it doesn’t hurt to try it.”
To make a saltwater rinse, add a half teaspoon of salt into a half cup of warm water. Mix it up, swish it for 30 seconds and spit it out.
Swishing some cold milk in your mouth is a remedy worth trying, as long as you’re not allergic to dairy or lactose intolerant.
Diluted hydrogen peroxide is another good go-to for a burned mouth.
“Peroxide calms minor irritation and kills germs,” explains Dr. Timen. “If your mouth still hurts after using cold water, diluted peroxide can provide some extra relief.”
Use this remedy only once or twice after the initial burn, as using peroxide for longer periods can damage your tooth enamel. And never use it full-strength — it’s way too strong for your mouth’s tissues and your teeth. Instead, create a mixture that is half water and half peroxide.
If the taste of peroxide is beyond what you can handle, head to the store and look for a mouthwash designed for mouth sores. They usually contain some peroxide and flavor to make them more palatable.
“After a mouth burn, a peroxide-based mouthwash can help your tissues heal faster,” says Dr. Timen. “Follow the instructions on the package, and be sure to avoid any mouthwash that contains alcohol. Alcohol can irritate tissues in your mouth and may delay healing.”
If all else fails, pick up some mouth gel that contains benzocaine.
“A product with benzocaine provides a temporary numbing effect,” Dr. Timen explains. “This is a safe option if you’re in pain and other remedies aren’t enough.”
You can also take an over-the-counter pain reliever, like ibuprofen or acetaminophen. Though these meds won’t help the burn heal faster, they can provide some relief if the pain is bothering you.
Avoid things that could make the pain worse, like:
Mouth burns aren’t usually an emergency, but a few situations do require professional treatment. In rare cases, drinking a hot liquid can cause epiglottitis, a serious condition that can block your airway. Call 911 or go to the nearest emergency room if you experience:
You should also seek immediate medical care if:
A burn on the roof of your mouth is a bummer, but usually, your body will do the work of healing it for you. In the meantime, use some home remedies — and maybe give a frosty treat a try.