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Burning Mouth Syndrome


Disease: Burning Mouth Syndrome Burning Mouth Syndrome
Category: Mouth and teeth diseases
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Disease Definition:

Also called burning tongue syndrome, scalded mouth syndrome, burning lips syndrome, stomapodynia and glossodynia, burning mouth syndrome is the chronic burning pain in the mouth, which could affect the gums, tongue, roof of the mouth, inside of the cheeks, lips or widespread areas of the whole mouth.

Most of the time, the cause of this syndrome is not known, which makes treatment more difficult. The pain could be severe, as if the person scalded their mouth. However, this syndrome could usually be brought under control by working with a health care team.

Work Group:

Prepared by: Scientific Section

Symptoms, Causes


Some of the signs and symptoms of burning mouth syndrome are:


  • Loss of taste
  • Increased thirst
  • Sore mouth
  • A sensation of dry mouth
  • Mouth pain, which worsens as the day progresses
  • Taste changes, such as a bitter or metallic taste.
  • A tingling or numb sensation in the mouth or on the tip of the tongue
  • A burning sensation that could affect the tongue, gums, lips, palate, throat or whole mouth.

Usually, the burning mouth syndrome has several different patterns of pain. It could either start as soon as the person wake up and last all day, or it could occur every day, with little pain in the morning and increased pain as the day progresses. In some cases, the pain could come and go, and a person may even have some entirely pain-free days.

 Before proper diagnosis and treatment, burning mouth syndrome symptoms usually last for years. However, in some cases, the symptoms could become less frequent, or they could even go away on their own. No physical changes to the tongue or mouth occurs in the case of having burning mouth syndrome.

A person should immediately see a doctor or dentist in case they have pain or soreness in their lips, tongue, gums or other areas of their mouth. In some cases, in order to discover the cause of burning mouth syndrome and develop an effective treatment plan, the patient and dentist may have to work together.


Primary or idiopathic burning mouth syndrome is when the cause of burning mouth syndrome is not known. Secondary burning mouth syndrome is when it is caused by an underlying medical condition, such as a nutritional deficiency.

Primary burning mouth syndrome is suggested to be related to problems with taste and sensory nerves of the peripheral or central nervous system. As mentioned before, secondary burning mouth syndrome is usually the symptom of one or more underlying medical problems, such as:

Nutritional deficiencies: Including lack of thiamin (vitamin B1), riboflavin (vitamin B2), pyridoxine (vitamin B6), folate (vitamin B9), cobalamin (vitamin B12), zinc and iron.
Xerostomia (dry mouth): This could be the result of various medications or health problems.
Other oral conditions: Some of them are oral lichen planus, geographic tongue and oral yeast infection, also known as thrush.
Dentures: Mouth pain could be caused by dentures that place stress on some of the muscles and tissues of the mouth. The tissues in the mouth could also be irritated by the materials that are used in dentures.
Nerve damage, especially to nerves that control taste and pain in the tongue.
Psychological factors: These include excessive health worries, depression and anxiety.
Certain medications: Especially angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors, which are high blood pressure medications.
Excessive mouth irritation: This condition could be the result of having too many acidic drinks, over-brushing the tongue or overuse of mouthwashes.
Allergies or reactions to foods: This syndrome could be caused by reactions to foods, food flavorings, other food additives, dyes, fragrances or other substances.
Endocrine disorders: Including hypothyroidism and diabetes.
Gastroesophageal reflux disease: This is the reflux of stomach acid that enters the mouth from the upper gastrointestinal tract.
Hormonal imbalances: Particularly those associated with menopause.
Oral habits: Including bruxism (teeth grinding) and tongue thrusting.

Burning mouth syndrome isn't a common situation and risk may be greater if a person is:


  • A woman
  • in his/her 50s, 60s or even 70s

Burning mouth syndrome usually begins spontaneously, with no known triggering factor. But some research studies suggest that certain factors may increase the risk of developing burning mouth syndrome. These risk factors may include:


  • Allergic reactions to food
  • Being a so-called "supertaster," or someone with a high density of the small tongue bumps called papillae, which contain taste buds
  • Stress
  • Previous dental procedures
  • Medications
  • Upper respiratory tract infection
  • Traumatic life events



Burning mouth syndrome could cause or be associated with these complications:


  • Difficulty eating
  • Irritability
  • Decreased socializing
  • Depression
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Anxiety


Surgery isn’t recommended for burning mouth syndrome.
Unfortunately, there is no solid research on the most effective methods of treating burning mouth syndrome, meaning that there is no one sure way of treating it. Pinpointing the exact cause of burning mouth syndrome is essential because treatment will depend on the underlying conditions that are causing mouth pain and the person's particular signs and symptoms. Thus, symptoms should get better once the underlying causes are treated.
In the case of primary burning mouth syndrome, treatment could be quite challenging because there is no known cure, so that before finding a treatment or a combination that is helpful in reducing mouth pain, the patient will have to try several methods. Some of the available treatment options are:


  • B vitamins
  • Oral thrush medications
  • Saliva replacement products
  • Certain antidepressants
  • Special oral rinses or mouth washes
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy
  • Capsaicin, which is a pain reliever that comes from chili peppers
  • A strong antioxidant produced naturally by the body called alpha-lipoic acid
  • A lozenge-type form of the anticonvulsant medication clonazepam


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