Why Do Nicotine Pouches Burn? The Science and Myths
Erik Rosengren - Snusexpert
18 March, 2024
6 min

Why Do Nicotine Pouches Burn? The Science and Myths

The main reason why nicotine pouches burn is because of chemical irritants, high nicotine content, or pH levels. Other factors that may cause a nicotine pouch to burn are flavor, a torn or damaged pouch, and residual dental conditions.

Please remember, one of the effects of nicotine pouches is a slightly tingling sensation, which may feel like a burn to some people. We'll look at the differences between a tingle and a burn, along with the cause of concern and some misconceptions. All in all, we'll debunk all the lies and allay your fears. 

What Causes Nicotine Pouches to Burn?

One of the biggest reasons why some people feel their gums burning while using a nicotine pouch is a high pH level. Different nicotine pouches have varying pH levels between 7 and 8. According to the NCBI, the average pH of saliva is 6.2 to 7.6

When you use nicotine pouches with a high pH value, you might feel a slight burn or tingle. This effect is even more pronounced with mint flavored nicotine pouches, which increase the sensitivity of your gums and teeth because of the TRPM8 activators

Here are some other reasons why a nicotine pouch may burn your gums:

1. High Nicotine Content

Nicotine activates the Rat Trigeminal Ganglion Neurons like capsaicin, which causes a slight burning or tingling sensation in your mouth. Naturally, nicotine pouches with high nicotine content create a much more noticeable irritation compared to mild nicotine pouches. 

How do I avoid this?

  • Always use nicotine pouches according to your tolerance level
  • Never place a pouch under your lower lip

2. Chemical Irritants

Some nicotine pouches contain certain flavorings and additives that may cause a slight burning sensation. It's important to understand that these chemical irritants may not cause a burn for everyone. 

The genetic makeup of your saliva, daily diet, and gum structure is unique. While one pouch may cause a slight burning feeling in your mouth, it won't necessary produce the same effect for other people. 

How do I avoid this?

  • If you have sensitive gums, then avoid mint flavored nicotine pouches
  • Avoid pouches with higher nicotine content and pH values

3. Direct Contact of Nicotine With Gums

The plant-fiber material of a pouch acts as a buffer between the nicotine and the membranes of your gums. When the pouch is torn or damaged, the nicotine powder may leak out and cause irritation and a burning sensation between your upper lip and gum. 

How do I avoid this?

  • Never use a damaged nicotine pouch
  • Never chew or gnaw on a nicotine pouch

4. Prolonged Use of Nicotine Pouches

Sometimes, using nicotine pouches consistently for a long period of time can increase the sensitivity of your pouch. Using any oral nicotine pouch at such a point may produce a slight burning sensation under your top lip. It isn't pernicious to your oral health, but it is slightly irritating.

How do I avoid this?

  • Alternate between the sides of your gum when using pouches consecutively
  • Take a 20- to 30-minute break after using a nicotine pouch

Are Nicotine Pouch Burns Dangerous?

The burning sensation from nicotine pouches isn't entirely dangerous. However, it is very irritating and annoying, which may instill a fear of nicotine pouches in general. Also, when nicotine pouches burn your gums, it makes the area more sensitive to damage. 

Finally, nicotine pouch burns could be a sign that you're using products that are too strong for you. It means you could unknowingly be causing a nicotine overdose in your body. Listen to the warning signs that your body gives off, and follow the right guidelines to avoid a nicotine burn. 

Nicotine Burn VS Tingling Sensation

Most people confuse the tingling sensation of nicotine with a burn and harbor unnecessary fears. The tingling sensation represents the early stages of a nicotine rush. Every pouch contains nicotine, which reacts with the mucous membranes of your mouth.

The nicotine travels through your bloodstream and binds with the Nicotinic Acetylcholine Receptors. It releases various neurochemicals like adrenaline, dopamine, and serotonin. The tingling sensation signals the start of this nicotine buzz, and it only lasts for a short while.

The nicotine burn instead lasts for a long time and is very uncomfortable. It feels like holding ice in your hand or a cup of hot coffee. While the nicotine tingles begin a few seconds or minutes after placing the pouch, a nicotine burn can begin instantly. 

Tips to avoid nicotine burns

Tips to Avoid Nicotine Pouch Burns

Here are four tips that can help you avoid the infamous nicotine pouch burns:

  • Use the Right Nicotine Strength: Always use a nicotine pouch that has the right amount of nicotine according to your tolerance levels. Beginners should stick to nicotine concentrations between 3 and 6 mg of nicotine.
  • Avoid Nicotine Pouches and Snus With High pH: Nicotine and tobacco products that have a high pH are much more likely to cause a nicotine burn after prolonged use. You can find information about the pH level of each pouch on the back of the can.
  • Do Not Use Nicotine Products Back to Back: Take a 20- to 30-minute break after using a nicotine pouch. Rinse your mouth, drink some juice, or eat some fruits before using a nicotine pouch again. You should also alternate between the sides of your gum for consecutive uses.
  • Never Use Damaged Pouches: Avoid using a torn or damaged nicotine pouch, and never chew on a nicotine pouch. If you want a chewable product, try different chewing bags or other dips. 

Another great way to avoid pouch burns or other adverse health effects is to use the right number of nicotine pouches per day. On average, you should not use more than 10 nicotine pouches per day to avoid problems. 

Is Nicotine Burn a Sign of Cancer?

No, nicotine pouch burns are not a sign of cancer. There is a misconception in the industry that nicotine is responsible for cancer. According to research by Cancer Research UK, nicotine does not cause cancer.

Instead, the heated byproducts of tobacco, like smoke and other toxins, are responsible for cancer. The burn or tingling sensation that you feel between your lip and gum is in no way a sign of cancer. In fact, nicotine pouches are one of the least harmful products for gums.

Do Nicotine Pouches Damage Gums and Teeth?

No, nicotine pouches do not damage gums and teeth when you use them properly. The impact of nicotine pouches on gums is minimal compared to other products like tobacco, cigarettes, hookahs, and vapes.

While nicotine pouches are safer, we would still recommend following good dental practices to avoid problems. We've covered the correlation between popular brands like ZYN nicotine pouches and gum damage in a separate guide. 

Conclusion: Nicotine Pouches Burn Your Gums When They're Too Strong

A nicotine pouch will most likely burn your gums when it contains a nicotine content that exceeds your tolerance levels. Other reasons for a nicotine pouch burn include high pH levels, prolonged use, and various chemical irritants. While a pouch burn isn't fatal or very dangerous, it's still mildly irritating.

To avoid a pouch burn, take breaks between consecutive uses and consume products that are appropriate for your tolerance levels. Follow good dental practices to maintain your dental health. If you feel an overwhelming burning sensation in your mouth after removing a nicotine pouch, contact your dentist for further consultation and care. 


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