What is Burning Mouth Syndrome?
Burning Mouth Syndrome is a painful, complex condition. So, what exactly is Burning Mouth Syndrome and what can be done about it?
Burning Mouth Syndrome usually affects your tongue, but possibly also your lips, the roof of your mouth, or between your lips and gums. It is described as a burning, scalding, tingling feeling that lasts anywhere from a few months up to a few years.
Unfortunately, Burning Mouth Syndrome can be hard to diagnose, and there is no specific treatment that works for every person.
Today I will discuss with you just exactly what Burning Mouth Syndrome (BMS) is, the causes behind it and the visible symptoms of it, and how your Dentist can help you to manage the pain, as well as any home remedies that can assist.
Let’s jump to it!
What is Burning Mouth Syndrome?
You may feel the pain in your mouth from Burning Mouth Syndrome (BMS) every day, for months or even years.
For some people, the pain is constant. For others, the pain increases heavily as the day goes on and for some, the pain reduces when they eat or drink.
Along with the burning, scalding, tingling feeling in your mouth, you may also find yourself with a dry mouth, or a strange and unpleasant taste in your mouth.
Most common in adults 60 years or older, Burning Mouth Syndrome is also found roughly five times more in women than in men.
Primary and Secondary Burning Mouth Syndrome
There are two types of Burning Mouth Syndrome;
Primary Burning Mouth Syndrome
Upon diagnosing Burning Mouth Syndrome, your Dentist will do tests to check for any underlying medical problems.
If the tests do not reveal any underlying medical issues, they will diagnose you with Primary Burning Mouth Syndrome.
It is believed that Primary BMS is caused by damage that has been done to the nerves that control your pain and taste.
Secondary Burning Mouth Syndrome
When your Dentist checks your underlying medical problems, they may diagnose you with Secondary Burning Mouth Syndrome.
This is because there are some medical conditions which will actually cause Secondary Burning Mouth Syndrome, and treatment of the medical problem will cure your Secondary Burning Mouth Syndrome.
What can Cause Burning Mouth Syndrome?
As mentioned, it is believed that Primary BMS is caused by damage that has been done to the nerves that control your pain and taste.
12 Common causes of Secondary BMS include;
- Hormonal changes (such as those associated with thyroid problems)
- Hormonal deficiencies in post-menopausal women
- Metabolic disorders such as diabetes
- Allergies to dental products or dental materials (generally metals)
- Allergies to foods
- Dry mouth, which can be a result of certain disorders (such as Sjogren’s syndrome) or treatments (such as radiation therapy)
- Certain medications, including those which reduce your blood pressure or cause dry mouth
- Nutritional deficiencies such as a low iron, vitamin B or B12 levels
- Yeast infections in your mouth
- Acid reflux
- Psychological problems including emotional stress, anxiety and depression
- Neurological abnormalities
What are the Symptoms of Burning Mouth Syndrome?
The main symptom of Burning Mouth Syndrome is a burning, scalding, or tingling pain in the mouth – mostly affecting the tongue, but you may also feel the pain on your hard palate, your lips, the surface of your mouth, or between your gums and lips.
The pain will be constant, perhaps increasing throughout the day, and perhaps only reducing whilst eating or drinking.
5 Other symptoms also include;
- A feeling of numbness in the mouth (overtaking the burning feeling)
- A feeling of discomfort from the tingling sensation
- Dry mouth
- An altered taste in your mouth
- Altered smell
How is Burning Mouth Syndrome Diagnosed?
Burning Mouth Syndrome is hard to diagnose – Dentists do not have a specific test for BMS, and it’s not something that they can see during an exam.
You may find that your Dentist may refer you to see a specialist for your diagnosis.
Specialists who diagnose BMS include Dentists who specialise in oral medicine or oral surgery. Otolaryngologists (Doctors who are ear, nose, and throat specialists), gastroenterologists, neurologists or dermatologists may also be able to diagnose the disorder.
To diagnose Burning Mouth Syndrome, your Dentist will review your medical history and examine your mouth.
Other factors that may cause oral burning must also be excluded. These include certain medications, Type 2 Diabetes, allergies and vitamin deficiencies. Additional tests will probably be needed.
Blood tests – these will check for any underlying medical issues you may have, including checking your complete blood count, glucose level, thyroid function, nutritional factors and immune functioning, all of which may provide evidence of where your mouth discomfort is originating from.
Oral swab tests – Analysing samples of saliva from your mouth can determine whether you have any fungal, bacterial or viral infections.
Tissue biopsy – A piece of tissue is removed so that one may look more closely at what is occurring within your body.
Imaging tests – Your Dentist may suggest you have an MRI scan, a CT scan or other imaging tests, as these will check for other health problems.
Allergy tests – Allergy testing may be suggested to see if you are allergic to certain foods, additives or even products or materials used in dental procedures.
Salivary flow test – A symptom of Burning Mouth Syndrome is a dry mouth. Salivary measurements can verify whether you have a reduced salivary flow.
Psychological test – You may be asked to fill out questionnaires that can help establish whether you have any signs of depression, anxiety or other mental health conditions.
How to you Treat Burning Mouth Syndrome?
As Burning Mouth Syndrome is quite a complex pain disorder with many different factors that can cause it, there is no specific treatment that works for everybody.
However, your Dentist can prescribe you with painkillers and other medications that will help you deal with the mouth pain, dry mouth, and any other symptoms that are causing you discomfort.
Unfortunately, there is no known cure for Primary Burning Mouth Syndrome. There has been no solid research on the most effective methods of treatment – it really depends on your particular symptoms.
Thus, you may need to try multiple treatment methods before finding one, or even a combination of several treatments, that help reduce your pain.
8 Treatment options which may be used
- Saliva replacement products
- Specific oral rinses
- Lidocaine (a topical anaesthetic)
- Capsaicin (a painkiller that comes from chilli peppers)
- An anticonvulsant medication called Clonazepam (Klonopin)
- Medications that block nerve pain
- Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) to develop strategies to cope with anxiety, depression and chronic pain
Secondary BMS may be resolved when the underlying medical condition is treated.
For example, treating a yeast infection or taking supplements for a vitamin deficiency may relieve your discomfort. That is why it is so important to try and determine what is causing your Burning Mouth Syndrome – as once any underlying issues are treated, your symptoms should begin to resolve themselves.
If your Dentist believes it is a medication that you are taking that is causing the Secondary Burning Mouth Syndrome, then they may suggest you talk to your Doctor about changing to a new medicine – once again, this is fixing the underlying issue to resolve the problem.
Home Remedies for Burning Mouth Syndrome
Firstly, to treat Burning Mouth Syndrome you must remove any factors which may be contributing to the disorder, including;
- Mouthwash that contains alcohol
- Alcoholic beverages
- Hot, spicy foods
- Any food or drinks high in acid such as tomatoes, citrus fruits and juices, soft drinks and coffee
- Any products with cinnamon or mint
Once you’ve rid your life from all the contributing factors, recommendations for home-treatments include;
- Purchase and use only alcohol-free dental products with low additives and minimal flavouring, such as toothpaste for sensitive teeth
- Chew on sugar-free sweets and gum
- Drink plenty of cold, non-caffeinated beverages – all to help ease the feeling of dry mouth
- Suck on ice cubes
- Utilise therapies for stress management, such as yoga, psychotherapy and moderate exercise
- Depending on the severity of your symptoms, antidepressants that are used to treat anxiety may also be considered as a burning mouth syndrome treatment
Burning Mouth Syndrome is a complex, painful disorder that lasts months or even years.
A burning, scalding, tingling feeling on your tongue, palate, lips, the surface of your mouth, and between your gums and lips, as well as a dry mouth, and a strange and unpleasant taste in your mouth… it doesn’t sound like much fun at all.
Generally affecting those over the age of 60, and 5 times more likely to affect women more than men, Burning Mouth Syndrome can be hard to diagnose.
However, it can be both weakening and exhausting, and so I recommended that you visit your Dentist if you notice yourself suffering from any symptoms of oral burning.
Have you experienced Burning Mouth Syndrome?
By Dr Veronica Roller
Created at October 15, 2019, Updated at March 06, 2020