SINGAPORE: ‘Tis the season to eat, drink and … inadvertently burn your mouth, if you have a penchant for gulping your hot chocolate or biting into your Christmas pudding before it has cooled.
Such injuries tend to affect the roof of the mouth and are first-degree burns that affect the outer-most layer of the skin, said Dr Eunjung Jo, a dentist at Astor Smile Dental in New York City, in an online Daily Mail article.
These burns generally take a longer time to heal than burns on the tongue as the latter has the most blood vessel supply in the entire body, said Dr Jo.
But the pain from a burned palate can be searing as the skin here is more sensitive than other parts of the body. Furthermore, there is hardly any fat between the skin and the bones. As a result, it usually lingers for two to three days, said Dr Jo.
After you’ve spat out the hot food, swish your mouth with cold water or cold milk, said Dr Alice Boghosian, spokesperson for the American Dental Association. Milk can coat and soothe the burned skin, while the low temperature of the water or milk can help to remove some of the immediate heat to decrease inflammation, she said.
If you can’t bear the pain, Dr Boghosian suggests taking an acetaminophen or ibuprofen, or apply a numbing gel over the area.
But whatever you do, do not pop an ice cube into your mouth as it may stick to the burned area and damage the skin more, said Dr Boghosian.
HELPING YOUR MOUTH HEAL
Burned mouths take time to heal but there are some ways to avoid aggravating the burn and speed up your recovery. For instance, stick to a soft diet. That means chips, nuts and other textured foods are off the menu. Instead, Dr Jo recommended yoghurt and sushi as they are soft and will not irritate the palate or the tongue.
Other no-nos include anything that is too hot, cold or spicy. “You want to make sure everything is room temperature,” said Dr Jo. Stay off coffee, wine and soft drinks, too, for at least two days as these drinks are acidic and will irritate the skin as it heals.
This is no time to get shoddy on your dental hygiene either. Brush your teeth as usual but be gentle or use a soft toothbrush, said Dr Alice Bruce, dermatologist at The Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Florida.
Top it off with a saltwater rinse, which is more soothing than mouthwash, two or three times a day. Make the rinse by mixing one cup of warm water with half a teaspoon of table salt, said Dr Bruce.
The good news is, the rate at which skin produces new cells in the mouth is much faster than anywhere else on the body, said Dr Bruce. Your mouth should be pain-free in two to three days, and in about a week, the wound should be gone.
That said, the severity and size of the burned area will determine your healing duration.
However, if the burn isn't healing after a week or the pain gets worse after a few days, you might want to call your dentist or doctor, said Dr Boghosian.