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Ear, Nose, and Throat Disorders

Taste loss & numb sensation in tongue

12/03/2008

Question:

I had a tonsilectomy done 2 months ago. I felt like the tip and middle of my tongue felt numb and I could not taste a thing. Then last week I ate a brownie and could get full flavor of it until I started to salivate (this altered the taste due to the faul taste in my mouth) and my tongue felt normal again. So I got this bright idea that if I could get rid of that faul taste I would be goog to go!!! Well, over the weekend I gargled listerine (IT BURNED MY TONGUE SOOOO BADLY). Then I noticed that my taste went away too. I can hardly taste anything again and my tip to middle of my tongue feels numb again (but at the same time I can feel it). Will I heal again or did i do more damage?? I stopped gargling the listerine after 2 days. Is there anything else I can do to help??? I am sooo freaked out. Food is my life!!

Answer:

Due to the pressure placed upon the tongue during tonsil surgery, the tongue can sometimes be numb for a temporary period postoperatively.  For the same reason, taste buds on the tongue may not function.  (This can also be due to injury to a plexus of nerves just below the tonsil bed.)  This too is usually temporary.  It seems unlikely the Listerine did any damage. 

Given a little more time, your taste should return and the numbness should resolve.  If not, I would consult your ENT physician.

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Response by:

Allen M Seiden, MD Allen M Seiden, MD
Professor of Otolaryngology, Director of Division of Rhinology and Sinus Disorders, Director of University Taste and Smell Center, Director of University Sinus and Allergy
College of Medicine
University of Cincinnati