Mouth Numbness as a Symptom of Multiple Sclerosis

While many people with MS experience numbness and tingling at some point, you may or may not have heard of or experienced numbness and tingling of the mouth—a particularly unpleasant sensation.

In multiple sclerosis, mouth numbness, like other sensory disturbances, is associated with a damaged or destroyed myelin, the fatty sheath that insulates nerve fibers. It generally occurs from a lesion in the brainstem and may affect the face as well.

Like other MS symptoms, a doctor can diagnose new numbness using an MRI. One study suggests also using trigeminal somatosensory evoked potentials as a diagnostic tool.

Mother with her child, both eating a long strand of spaghetti
Martin Novak / Getty Images

What Mouth Numbness Feels Like

The symptoms of mouth numbness include:

  • Some people describe mouth numbness as being compared to getting a cavity filled (when your gum is anesthetized).
  • Others describe a "swollen" or "burning" sensation on their tongue or elsewhere inside their mouth.

Due to the numbness, some people may begin chewing and holding food on the unaffected (or less affected) side of their mouths. Others may lose their appetite due to the unpleasant experience of eating—it's especially important to talk to your doctor if this is the case. Dental care providers need to be aware of issues affecting those with MS.


There is no specific medication to treat mouth numbness. If it is severe though, your doctor may prescribe you a steroid to ease your symptoms. The good news is that MS-related numbness is generally transient, so it should remit.

One thing to note is that you should be very careful when chewing when you are experiencing numbness in your mouth. Find food that is soft and that does not present a choking hazard if it is not fully chewed, especially if you have difficulty swallowing (another symptom of MS).

In addition, chew slowly so you do not accidentally bite the inside of your mouth, which can be quite painful. You also want to be careful about drinking hot liquids, as they may inadvertently burn your tongue or the inside of your mouth.

Other Mouth Symptoms in MS

Keep in mind, besides numbness, there are other mouth-related symptoms seen in MS.

Taste Deficits

Taste disturbances are common in MS, ranging in severity from subtle to more severe. In one study in the Journal of Neurology, investigators administered a taste test to 73 people with MS and 73 matched controls. The test measured sweet (sucrose), sour (citric acid), bitter (caffeine) and salty (salt) taste perception on the top and bottom of the tongue.

Results revealed that the people with MS had significantly lower taste identification scores, as compared to the controls (with the biggest deficit being that for salt).

Moreover, a positive correlation was found between the degree of the taste deficit and the number and size of MS lesions in certain parts of the brain (like the frontal and temporal lobe of the brain).

Trigeminal Neuralgia

Trigeminal neuralgia is an exquisitely painful condition of the face. In MS, it results from damage to the trigeminal nerve (a nerve in your face that transmits sensory signals to your brain and also helps control some of the muscles involved in chewing).

Episodes of trigeminal neuralgia are short-lived (usually lasting seconds) but severe and debilitating, causing stabbing, electric shock-like attacks of pain, commonly in the jaw, teeth, and gums. It can usually be treated with the anti-seizure medication Tegretol (carbamazepine) or Trileptal (oxcarbazepine).

A Word From Verywell

If you have MS and are experiencing isolated mouth numbness (or other mouth-related symptoms), you can at least include MS as one of the possible causes. Consider yourself lucky, too, if your neurologist has even heard of this as a symptom of MS, as it appears to be less commonly reported than other symptoms

It's a good idea to get it checked out though because it may not be your MS. There are a number of other potential causes like an allergy, or more serious causes like a tumor, herpes zoster, or trauma. Be proactive and get it evaluated.

Was this page helpful?
Article Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Zhang GQ, Meng Y. Oral and craniofacial manifestations of multiple sclerosis: implications for the oral health care provider. Eur Rev Med Pharmacol Sci. 2015 Dec;19(23):4610-20.

  2. Koutsis G, Kokotis P, Papagianni AE, Evangelopoulos ME, Kilidireas C, Karandreas N. A neurophysiological study of facial numbness in multiple sclerosis: Integration with clinical data and imaging findings. Mult Scler Relat Disord. 2016 Sep;9:140-6. doi:10.1016/j.msard.2016.07.009

  3. Elemek E, Almas K. Multiple sclerosis and oral health: an update. N Y State Dent J. 2013 Apr;79(3):16-21.

  4. Doty RL, Tourbier IA, Pham DL, et al. Taste dysfunction in multiple sclerosisJ Neurol. 2016;263(4):677–688. doi:10.1007/s00415-016-8030-6

  5. Cruccu G, Finnerup NB, Jensen TS, et al. Trigeminal neuralgia: New classification and diagnostic grading for practice and researchNeurology. 2016;87(2):220–228. doi:10.1212/WNL.0000000000002840

Additional Reading