Because no food is worth a nasty mouth burn — even pizza.
Let’s face it: Sometimes you just can’t wait for that piping-hot pizza or morning coffee to cool down.
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But we all know what happens when that impatience gets the best of us: Your mouth and tongue end up taking the heat.
We’ve all been there. Maybe you were deceived by the cool whipped cream topping on a boiling cup of hot cocoa, or you were too drunk to realize how hot the cheese was on that late-night slice of pizza. Maybe, like so many of us in the mornings, you were just so caffeine-deprived that you absolutely couldn’t wait to take a sip of your coffee — only to have it sear your tongue like a hot knife.
No matter how you burn your tongue or mouth, it always sucks.
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But what actually happens when you burn your mouth or tongue, and what’s the best way to help it heal?
We reached out to two mouth-burn experts to find out: Dr. Alison Bruce, dermatologist at The Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Florida, and Dr. Alice Boghosian, spokesperson for the American Dental Association and a dentist in Park Ridge, Illinois.
Quick note: For the purpose of this article, we’re talking about burns on your mouth and tongue from hot foods or drinks like soup, cocoa, pizza, etc. We are not referring to the treatment of third-degree mouth burns from fires or other traumatic events. You definitely want to see a doctor for those.
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Super-hot foods and drinks can cause a first-degree burn that damages the delicate membrane lining your mouth.
“Mouth burns are usually first-degree burns, and sometimes second-degree but it’s less common,” says Bruce. The burn damages cells in the outermost layer of skin (the epithelium) on your tongue, the roof of your mouth, or the insides of your cheeks, Bruce tells BuzzFeed Health. It basically has the same effect as a burn anywhere else on the skin, but the tissue in your mouth and on your tongue is much more delicate.
“The mouth is lined with a mucus membrane and there’s no spongy or fatty layer underneath like regular skin, so it just adheres to bone,” Bruce says. This means it’s easier to burn the inside of your mouth and it’s a lot more painful. And it explains why eating hot pizza can totally singe the roof of your mouth, while touching or holding hot pizza won’t really burn your fingers.
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