Could sodium hydroxide permanently destroy human tastebuds?

It seems that from what I’ve read, tastebuds are extremely rigorous. They do get destroyed but even from drinking boiling water or consuming oven hot cheese, they manage regrow again with mild-severe pain; though the taste definitely comes back.

What really intrigued me though was my male ‘friend’, Nigel who let say is quite smart but maybe lacks in common sense… He has an extreme dislike for his sweet tooth which he says causes his already weak enamel from low calcium levels to erode even further, so he told me that 4 weeks ago he was in the process of ridding his taste-buds.

He first got 10% lidocaine gel and applied it on his tongue. His second step was to dissolve some caustic soda in a strong solution; not with regards to chemical accuracy (moles) but just so that it was ‘highly corrosive’. He then took a makeup pad, soaked it, stuck it on the area of hi tongue numbed with the anesthetic and…well you biochemists can tell me.

He was unable to swallow anything for the first few days but now he says that it’s gotten slightly better, though he doesn’t really notice any difference in taste mainly due to the extreme pain.

I know their are dopers who could explain this easily but I certainly can’t; so will his plan work or will the tastebuds grow back? Would it also have any other effects on health?

I can’t imagine anything could possibly go wrong there. Except for the possibility that your friend may wind up losing his tongue all together.

How will killing his taste buds help with his craving for sweet things? Did he misunderstand that “sweet tooth” means it originates in the mouth? It’s a complicated mechanism, but most of it’s in the brain.
Regarding taste, most of it is not on the tongue, but in the nose - Standard example is if you have a cold, or pinch your nose shut, you can’t distinguish between an apple and a Piece of celery. And if you are blindfolded, Food also tastes far less good.

Maybe hypnosis and sugar-free treats would work better.
I think there are several studies (not by crackpots, but scientists) about how sugar creates an addiction-like reaction in the human Body.

OK. “Except for the possibility that your friend may wind up losing his tongue.” :smiley:

Wikipedia says:

So NaOH will indeed dissolve one’s taste buds, as well as the entire epithelium (the “skin”) of the tongue. It etches glass and dissolves metals, after all. In college, I got a few small chemical burns and still have scars. Anyone stupid enough to try this is asking for a nice third-degree burn in a warm, moist, and germy environment that gives a high risk of infection, possible nerve damage, and massive scarring to the tongue and whatever else the NaOH touches.

Plus, if you happen to swallow it, you may have heard of the bad guys in movies making their enemies drink the Drano? Know what the active ingredient in Drano is?

When “Nigel” recovers he should grow some willpower to lay off the sweets, see a dentist, and lay off the Class 8 Hazardous Materials.


I understand that it should have been “altogether” rather than “all together,” but the point of this exchange and the associated smilies is eluding me. Care to explain, please?

See this clip, starting at about 1 minute.

Airplane! reference.

True, but sugar/sweetness is one of the basic tastes that the tongue can detect on its own.

The perception of aromas can also produce sensations of sweetness (strawberries are about the same level of acidity as blueberries, and contain less sugar, but they taste sweeter due to their aroma).

If the OP’s friends plan works, and he does destroy his taste buds, his perception of plain sweetness (sugar and artificial sweeteners) probably will be diminished - so it’s possible that candy might taste weirdly unsweet - sort of like the opposite effect to miraculin.
Aside though, the plan to curb your sugar craving by corroding your own tongue is right up there with that guy who was going to cure eye floaters by microwaving his face.

That is literally the first time I got that joke. Thank you!

Well your mouth may catch on fire. Add a little h20 to pure NaOH and any caloric substance and you get fire. It’s not commonly known, but sprinkle some NaOH on, say, some breakfast cereal and add a few drops of water. Then step back. I used to mix a little NaOH in with some homemade gunpowder to make pool bombs. Oh my misspent youth.

Whoops, my bad, that’s sodium peroxide.

The best thing about this thread, and it required explanation.

Baby Jesus is crying.:frowning:

You’re not destroying your tastebuds with oven hot cheese. You’re getting a surface burn killing the outermost cells. If by “drinking boiling water” you mean taking one, or several small sips of water some degrees below the boiling water, the same applies.

What you say your friend is trying to do is give himself a serious chemical burn to a deeper level. That could certainly kill your taste as the burn created scarred over.

Compare it to skinning your knee. Now that has more protective layers, not being a mucous membrane, but it is still similar. Scalding your mouth on a piece of too warm pizza or sip of coffee is similar to barely skinning your knee. It stings and seeps fluid, but it heals with no difference in function or appearance. You may have pulled out a few hairs, but they will regrow from deeper structures. Really wipe on your bike so you rub off the whole upper layers of skin though and it will scar over.

Wait… his solution for preserving the weak enamel of his teeth is to introduce a highly corrosive caustic soda!?

That’s like using a frontal lobotomy as a cure for migraines.

That actually won someone a Nobel Prize

and DON’T call me “Shirley” !!!

Pretty cunning, huh?

Acids destroy tooth enamel; strong alkali to the rescue! :smack:

Brilliant, wonderful anecdote.

I plan to use it in an essay on gastronomy, and if so will PM you for permission and at least recognition of anonymous citation, because no one will believe you.