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What is Burning Mouth Syndrome?

August 9, 2022

Overview

A medical term for chronic or recurrent burning sensation in the mouth without an apparent cause, Burning Mouth is a severe burning sensation that can feel like scalding of the mouth.

Usually appearing suddenly, and developing slowly, it can last for years and cause discomfort in the tongue, gums, lips, inside of the cheeks, the roof of the mouth, or widespread areas of the whole mouth.

However, usually, the areas of the mouth affected by the pain are the tip of the tongue or the roof of the mouth.

No particular reason for this problem can be understood most of the time, making the treatment more challenging.

Understanding the probable causes and treatment options for BMS can help the patients to manage the condition and find relief. 

What are the Symptoms of Burning Mouth Syndrome?

The symptoms of Burning Mouth Syndrome can be both mild or severe, varying from person to person. Some people compare the sensation to the burning feeling of eating food that’s too hot and others describe the feeling as scalding. Burning mouth syndrome may cause symptoms like:

  • A sensation of burning or scalding, mostly affecting the tongue, but which may also involve the lips, gums, palate, throat, or whole mouth
  • A feeling of dry mouth with increased thirst
  • Change of taste of the mouth towards bitter or metallic
  • Trouble in swallowing food
  • Sore throat 
  • Loss of taste
  • Stinging or numbness in the mouth

There may be many different patterns of burning mouth syndrome. It may:

  • Occur daily with a little discomfort on waking up, but may worsen as the day progresses
  • Begin as soon as one wakes up and last all-day
  • Come & Go

Whatever the pattern of mouth discomfort may be, this syndrome can last for many months to years.

However, in some isolated cases, symptoms may suddenly disappear on their own or maybe felt less often or there may be temporary relief of some sensations during eating or drinking.

No apparent physical changes to the tongue or mouth are caused by this Syndrome.

When to See a Doctor?

A discomfort, burning, or soreness of the tongue, lips, gums, or other areas of the mouth, may be an indication to see both a doctor and a dentist as both may require to work together to help identify a reason and formulate an effective and helpful treatment plan.

Dr. Sheena Gaur at Kirkland Premier Dentistry is a dentist open on Saturday and can help you deal with this issue.


What are the Causes of Burning Mouth Syndrome?

The burning mouth syndrome is usually classified as a:

  • Primary burning mouth syndrome 
  • Secondary burning mouth syndrome

Primary Burning Mouth Syndrome

The condition where no clinical or lab abnormalities or cause is observed is called a primary burning mouth syndrome.

It may not be related to any health issues, making the diagnosis difficult. However, it is suggested by a few researchers that a primary burning mouth syndrome is associated with problems with taste and sensory nerves of the peripheral or central nervous system.

 The doctor may perform some tests to check for abnormalities like:

  • blood test
  • oral swab
  • allergy test
  • salivary flow test

However, if no underlying illness is found to cause BMS, the doctor may make a diagnosis of primary BMS which infers a burning mouth without any identified cause. 

Secondary Burning Mouth Syndrome

A burning mouth syndrome caused by a clear & identifiable underlying medical condition is called Secondary Burning Mouth Syndrome. 

Underlying problems that may cause secondary burning mouth syndrome include:

  • Dry mouth or xerostomia can be caused by various medications, health problems, issues with salivary gland function, or as a side effect of cancer treatment
  • Fungal infection of the mouth called oral thrush, an inflammatory disorder or a condition called geographic tongue in which the tongue appears like a map
  • Lack of iron, zinc and other vitamins like folate, thiamin, riboflavin, pyridoxine and cobalamin.
  • Allergy, sensitivity or reaction to foods, food flavorings, food additives, fragrances, dyes, or dental-work substances
  • Stomach acid reflux  that enters the mouth from the stomach
  • Some medications, especially medicines used to treat high blood pressure
  • Habits like tongue thrusting, biting the tip of the tongue & teeth grinding (bruxism)
  • Hormonal changes due to diabetes, menopause, or hypothyroidism
  • Excessive mouth irritation caused by overbrushing of the tongue using abrasive toothpaste, overuse of mouthwashes, or having a high quantity of acidic drinks
  • Anxiety, depression, or stress

Also Read: Gingivitis: Signs, Symptoms, Causes and Treatment

Are There Any Risk Factors for the Burning Mouth Syndrome?

Burning mouth syndrome is a relatively uncommon problem. Dr. Sheena Gaur explains that one may be at greater risk if:

  • one is a woman
  • is perimenopausal or postmenopausal
  • is over 50 years of age

Burning mouth syndrome usually begins suddenly, with no obvious triggering factor but certain aspects may increase one’s risk of developing burning mouth syndrome. These include:

  • Recent illness or disease
  • A few persistent medical conditions like fibromyalgia, Parkinson’s disease, autoimmune disorders and neuropathy
  • Dental procedures
  • Allergic reactions to food
  • Traumatic life events
  • Stress, Anxiety & Depression

Can Burning Mouth Syndrome be Prevented?

Though there is no definite known measure to prevent burning mouth syndrome, avoiding tobacco, acidic and spicy foods, carbonated beverages, and excessive stress, may be able to curtail the discomfort caused by the burning mouth syndrome to some extent.

How is Burning Mouth Syndrome Diagnosed?

The doctor begins by asking the patient about the symptoms, allergies if any, current medications and if the patient is a regular smoker or drinks often. The mouth is then examined to check for a possible infection.

A few tests may be recommended to rule out other medical issues. These tests include:

  • Allergy test to check if the patient has an allergic reaction to any food or medication
  • Biopsy by removing a small piece of tissue from the mouth and sending it out for tests
  • Blood tests to rule out thyroid or diabetes
  • CT scans and X-rays were taken from various angles and then compiled  to present a more complete picture
  • MRI
  • Salivary flow tests to measure the amount of saliva produced

How is Burning Mouth Syndrome Treated?

The Burning Mouth Syndrome usually resolves on its own if there is no underlying health problem, causing it.

However, if a particular medical condition is found to be causing the Burning Mouth Syndrome, the burning sensation can be stopped by treating the underlying health problem. This may include:

  • Acid reflux: Medication is prescribed to neutralize stomach acid and to help alleviate the symptoms of BMS.
  • Dry mouth: The patients who have a dry mouth are recommended some products to increase saliva production. They may also be given vitamin shots or supplements for a vitamin deficiency.
  • Mouth infection: Medication to treat an underlying oral infection or a pain reliever is prescribed.
  • Stress: Medicines like Clonazepam are prescribed in low doses to treat stress
  • Hormone replacement in women with hormonal issues  women

The following steps can also be taken to ease symptoms:

  • Sucking on small ice chips throughout the day can help to lessen the burning sensation.
  • Drinking or sipping cold liquids can also relieve pain in the mouth. 
  • Avoiding acidic foods, like citrus fruits can help lessen the discomfort 
  • Avoid food and drinks that are known to worsen or precipitate the burning sensation. One must limit the consumption of hot beverages and spicy foods. Moreover, reducing smoking or consuming alcohol can help in reducing the sensation as both of these are known triggers of BMS 
  • Changing the toothpaste is recommended if the burning worsens after brushing the teeth. Switching to a toothpaste specifically formulated for people with mouth sensitivities is recommended.
  • Rinsing the mouth with a mixture of a spoonful of baking soda and lukewarm water can help to neutralize acid and cool the burning sensation.
  • Staying active and practicing relaxation techniques like yoga, exercise, and meditation can help to reduce stress.

Takeaway

A burning sensation on the tongue or in the mouth is possibly caused by some underlying medical condition like thrush, vitamin or mineral deficiency, or an allergic reaction to food or medicines.

Schedule an appointment at Kirkland Premier Dentistry if you have a burning sensation in your mouth that is causing discomfort.

Dr. Sheena Gaur is an expert in Oral health problems and is an excellent consultant who guides and treats hundreds of patients every year about their oral and dental issues. 

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