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Harvard Medical School
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General Medical Questions
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Question : I have a tingling feeling in my mouth and on my tongue. I've been to a dentist, allergist, dermatologist and general doctor, but no one can pinpoint anything. What could it be?
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The Trusted Source
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Howard LeWine, M.D.

Anthony L. Komaroff, M.D., is professor of medicine and editor-in-chief of Harvard Health Publications at Harvard Medical School. Dr. Komaroff also is senior physician and was formerly director of the Division of General Medicine at Brigham and Women's Hospital. Dr. Komaroff has served on various advisory committees to the federal government, and is an elected Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

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June 10, 2011
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A:

A picture is worth a thousand words, and I can't see your mouth. So I'm shooting blind.

I assume all these dentists and doctors looked in your mouth and did not see anything wrong:

  • No bumps
  • No sores
  • No areas of redness
  • No areas of irritation

I also assume the dentist pushed on your teeth near the area of tingling, and that the pressure on the teeth didn't produce the tingling. If it did, there could be something wrong with the tooth and its root.

One possibility that comes to mind is herpesviruses. This family of viruses can cause infections of nerves that produce tingling and unpleasant sensations.

With shingles, which is caused by a herpesvirus called varicella-zoster virus, the unpleasant sensation can be accompanied by visible abnormalities of the skin. But sometimes it's just the unpleasant sensation, without any visible problems. This theory might be more likely if you also had similar unpleasant sensations elsewhere in your head.

If your doctor thinks the sensation might be caused by a herpesvirus, there are medicines that can reduce the ability of the virus to reproduce. This could possibly provide some symptom relief. Also, the sensation is likely to go away even without treatment, although it could come back periodically.

This is pretty speculative, I know, but it's hard to make a diagnosis based on a few words.

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