If you have experienced, burning mouth syndrome (BMS) can be a painful, frustrating condition that causes a sensation of moderate to severe burning in the mouth which can last from months to years. The pain can include your tongue, lips, gums, insides of your cheeks, roof of your mouth, and can feel like you’ve scalded your mouth.
While BMS can affect anybody, its more common among middle-aged or older women, according to the National Institutes of Health. Some people experience a bitter or metallic taste in their mouth, a dry or sore mouth, or tingling or numbness in the mouth and tongue.
The pain can take on different patterns, according to the Mayo Clinic, including starting with mild pain when you awaken, but worsening as the day goes on, or it can be severe all day, from the beginning of the day. It can also come and go, or you may experience days without any pain at all.
The syndrome is frustrating because it’s often difficult or impossible to pin down the cause of the burning, making treatment a challenge. Possible causes range the gamut, including hormonal changes, nutritional deficiencies, oral candidiasis, acid reflux, ill-fitting dentures or an allergy to denture materials, dry mouth caused by medicines or disorders, damage to nerves that control pain and taste, excessive mouth irritation resulting from over brushing of your tongue, overuse of mouthwash, having too many acidic drinks, or anxiety and depression.
To diagnose BMS, your health care professional is likely to run blood work looking for signs of nutritional deficiencies, infection, and disorders that are associated with BMS, which include diabetes or thyroid problems. They will also swab your mouth to check for oral candidiasis. Another option is to test for allergies to denture materials, foods, or other substances that may be causing your condition.
When the cause of the BMS can’t be identified, it’s called primary, or idiopathic burning mouth syndrome. When the cause of BMS can be identified – such as a nutritional deficiency for iron, zinc, one of the B vitamins, or an allergy to denture materials, it’s called secondary burning mouth syndrome.
Your treatment for BMS will depend upon the cause of the burning. If your dentures are causing the irritation, they will need to be adjusted or replaced; if it’s due to a medical condition such as diabetes, Sjogren’s syndrome or a thyroid problem, your medical professional will treat the underlying condition; supplements will be used to treat a nutritional deficiency; if a prescription drug is causing your burning mouth, switching medications may be an option, and medications can be prescribed to relieve underlying conditions including anxiety and depression, dry mouth, oral candidiasis, and pain from nerve damage.
If a cause cannot be found for your BMS, your treatment will focus on relieving your symptoms of pain. There are also things that you can do to relieve mouth pain and dryness, including sucking on ice chips, chewing sugarless gum to keep your mouth moist, sipping water frequently, brushing your teeth or dentures with baking soda and water, and avoiding alcohol, tobacco, and irritating substances such as spicy foods, mouthwashes that contain drying alcohol, and acidic products like citrus fruits and juices.
The following are some of the minor causes of burning mouth syndrome (also referred to as burning tongue syndrome) that you can discuss with your dentist or doctor.
When your mouth does not have enough saliva to stay wet, you get that dry, sticky feeling known as dry mouth. This is another oral condition that can be caused by different factors, such as diseases that affect the salivary glands, some medications or natural hormonal changes. Chronic dryness can contribute to a burning sensation or soreness in your mouth. Your dentist may recommend keeping your mouth moist by drinking more water and sucking on sugarless candy or chewing sugarless gum. Using a saliva substitute will also combat the dryness and keep your mouth healthy.
A deficiency of some key nutrients can also be a source of the burning sensation in your mouth. Deficiencies of B vitamins and minerals including iron and zinc can contribute to burning tongue syndrome by affecting the health of your oral tissues. Make sure you are eating a well-balanced diet with fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, dairy, nuts, seeds and healthy proteins. Talk to your doctor before taking nutritional supplements.
Drinking too many irritating beverages, overbrushing your tongue, and overusing your mouthwash can irritate mouth tissues. If you are experiencing a burning sensation in your mouth, try to drink fewer or less acidic drinks. Talk to your dentist about your oral hygiene habits to determine whether they could be causing some of the irritation.
Medication Side Effects
One of the possible burning tongue causes is the use of certain medications. Some drugs may cause soreness and dryness of the mouth. Inform your doctor if you are having side effects due to medications you are taking.
The burning can also be caused by another oral health condition, such as oral thrush (a fungal infection in the mouth) or geographic tongue (tongue has a map-like appearance on its surface). Your dentist can diagnose and provide options to reduce the pain and discomfort.
While some of the possible causes of burning tongue are easy to identify, others are not so obvious. Hormonal imbalances, nerve damage and allergies are just some of the medical issues that can cause this condition. Take good care of your oral and overall health with good oral hygiene habits, a healthy diet and regular dental appointments. Talk about your symptoms with your dentist, and find out if you need to see your doctor for further testing and diagnosis.