Burning Mouth Syndrome

Burning mouth syndrome is a chronic condition in which a person experiences a burning sensation in the mouth. The syndrome, which often develops suddenly and can become severe, makes the sufferer feel as if the tongue is being burned by hot coffee. Burning mouth syndrome may persist for several years, and no definitive treatment options are available.

Symptoms of Burning Mouth Syndrome

Patients with burning mouth syndrome experience a burning sensation on the tongue, lips or gums, or in the entire mouth, as well as pain, tingling and numbness. Additional symptoms may include:

  • Metallic taste in the mouth
  • Loss of taste
  • Dry mouth

These symptoms may come and go, and may be worse on certain days than others.

Causes of Burning Mouth Syndrome

The specific causes of burning mouth syndrome are unknown, although it may be linked to underlying conditions that include dry mouth, oral yeast infection or nutritional deficiency. Additional underlying causes may include:

  • Certain medications
  • Dentures that do not fit properly
  • Allergies or reactions to certain foods
  • Thyroid disorders or diabetes
  • Vitamin or nutritional deficiencies
  • Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)

In addition, burning mouth syndrome occurs frequently in postmenopausal women as a result of reduced estrogen levels and decreased sensitivity in the taste buds. If left untreated, patients may experience anxiety, or difficulty sleeping or eating.

Diagnosis of Burning Mouth Syndrome

To diagnose burning mouth syndrome, a doctor reviews all symptoms and conducts a physical examination. The following tests may also be performed:

  • Blood test
  • Allergy test
  • Oral culture or biopsy
  • Imaging test
  • Psychological evaluation

Treatment of Burning Mouth Syndrome

There is no specific treatment for burning mouth syndrome. Treating the underlying cause with methods such as changing medications, replacing ill-fitting dentures or taking vitamin supplements may help. Medications such as antidepressants or anti-seizure medications may also be prescribed, although they are not always effective. The following lifestyle changes and home remedies may help with the symptoms of burning mouth syndrome:

  • Chewing on ice
  • Avoiding spicy foods
  • Avoiding alcohol and tobacco
  • Using flavor-free toothpaste
  • Using oral rinses that contain lidocaine
  • Drinking more fluids to avoid dry mouth

Based on the particular symptoms, a combination of medication and home remedies may be recommended. After a few years, some patients experience, even without treatment, significant improvement.

Additional Resources