Burning Mouth Syndrome Overview
A burning mouth syndrome can be defined as the occurrence of ongoing (chronic) or recurrent burning sensation in the mouth for an indefinite period of time without any obvious cause. As if you have been scalded on your mouth, the burning sensation can be severe, as if you have been burned in your mouth. The discomfort may affect the tongue, gums, lips, inside of your cheeks, roof of your mouth, or widespread areas of your mouth.
Burning Mouth Syndrome (BMS) is usually a sudden onset condition, but can gradually manifest over time. Unfortunately, its precise cause is often undetermined. While this complicates the treatment process, you may be able to reduce symptoms by working in partnership with your healthcare provider.
What is Burning Mouth Syndrome?
Burning Mouth Syndrome (BMS), also referred to as glossodynia, is a condition characterized by a hot feeling or sensation experienced in the tongue, lips, palate, or throughout the mouth.
One may experience an altered sensation within the mouth when there is a disruption in the communication between the nerves and the brain, particularly related to taste and temperature. When the brain cannot decipher these signals effectively, this can result in sensations of discomfort or burning.
It is possible to experience burning sensations in certain areas of the mouth without any visible signs of soreness or redness. These areas will not feel hot when touched.
BMS, which is sometimes referred to as ‘neuropathic pain’, occurs when there is damage to the nerves.
Causes of Burning Mouth
Burning Mouth Syndrome can be grouped as either primary or secondary, depending on the underlying cause.
Primary burning mouth syndrome
Patients suffering from Primary Burning Mouth Syndrome, also known as Idiopathic Burning Mouth Syndrome, may experience a burning sensation that cannot be explained through laboratory tests or other health conditions. It is believed the cause may be related to damage of the nerves responsible for taste and pain.
Secondary burning mouth syndrome
Burning Mouth Syndrome may sometimes be the result of an underlying health event or medical condition, also known as secondary Burning Mouth Syndrome.
The possible causes of Secondary Burning Mouth Syndrome include:
- Acid reflux, in which acid is recirculated from your stomach into your mouth.
- Allergic reaction to materials used in dentures
- Anxiety or depression
- Changes in hormones can be caused by thyroid disease, diabetes, or menopause.
- A dry mouth caused by certain diseases and medical treatments like Sjogren’s Syndrome or undergoing radiation therapy.
- Medications used to treat blood pressure
- Dentures don’t fit well
- Oral conditions, such as geographic tongue
- Nutritional deficiency: Insufficient intake of iron, vitamin B12, or folic acid.
- Reaction to certain toothpastes or mouthwashes
- Stress and chronic anxiety
- Thrush (a yeast infection in your mouth)
Symptoms of Burning Mouth Syndrome
If you have Burning Mouth Syndrome (BMS), you may experience a sensation similar to having ingested a cup of hot coffee or a bowl of hot soup. Symptoms will vary from person to person. Generally, common mouth symptoms of BMS include:
- Patients may experience a burning sensation on their tongue, roof of the mouth, gums, inside of the cheeks, and in the back of the throat which may be relieved with eating or drinking.
- Patients may experience temporary numbness or tingling of the tongue, which can come and go.
- Trouble swallowing
- Dry mouth
- Sore throat
- Patients may experience a change in taste, such as a metallic tastes in their mouths.
The intensity of the pain may increase over the course of the day. If the burning sensation doesn’t subside or worsens, it is recommended to consult a dentist or a medical professional.
Treatments for burning mouth syndrome
If the doctor discovers an underlying health problem that could be causing your burning mouth, you have secondary burning mouth syndrome. Treatment of this issue should provide relief from your symptoms; however, if it does not, unfortunately no cure exists for burning mouth syndrome. There are, however, treatments available to help manage and reduce the severity of its associated symptoms.
Based on the cause of your burning mouth syndrome, your doctor may suggest one or more of the following treatment options:
- Amitriptyline (Elavil) and nortriptyline (Aventyl, Pamelor) are medications that can be beneficial in relieving nerve-related pain.
- Capsaicin, an analgesic derived from hot peppers, has been shown to be effective in relieving pain.
- Clonazepam (Klonopin), taken in low doses
- Female hormone replacement
- Mouth rinses
- Products that replace your saliva
- Vitamin supplements
Additionally, there are a few things you can do to help alleviate your symptoms, including:
- Refrain from consuming acidic foods, such as tomatoes and orange and citrus juices.
- Refrain from using alcohol, including mouthwashes with alcohol.
- Avoid cinnamon and mint.
- Avoid spicy foods.
- Avoid tobacco.
- Chewing sugar-free gum can help increase the production of saliva.
- Drink a lot of fluids.
- Reduce stress with yoga or hobbies.
- Join a pain support group or stay socially active.
- Suck on crushed ice.
Burning Mouth Diagnosis
Your physician will need to be informed about the onset and duration of your symptoms. Additionally, they will inquire if you have any allergies, or whether you take any medications, smoke, or consume alcohol regularly. Your doctor will also conduct a physical examination of your mouth to check for infection.
In order to properly identify any potential medical issues, it may be necessary to administer several tests. These tests may include:
- A professional allergy test can be conducted to determine if an individual has an adverse reaction to a particular product or medication.
- A biopsy may be recommended by the doctor in order to obtain a small tissue sample from the mouth for further testing.
- A blood test can help diagnose potential thyroid and diabetes conditions.
- A computed tomography (CT) scan creates a more detailed picture of the body than a single X-ray by combining several X-rays taken from different angles.
- Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) utilizes a combination of powerful magnets and radio waves to create detailed images.
- Salivary flow tests can be used to measure the amount of saliva produced.