We have all burned our mouths and tongues on hot food at some point, but imagine living with a burning sensation in your mouth all day every day. This is the plight of those who suffer with Burning Mouth (or Burning Tongue) Syndrome. This condition affects close to five percent of Americans. Most often it affects the top of the tongue, the lower lip, and the roof of the mouth. The constant burning sensation may be accompanied by a dry, gritty feeling in the mouth and changes to taste sensation.
The cause of Burning Mouth syndrome is unknown, but research has shown that this condition is the result of a nervous system malfunction, whereby the nerves do not send or process information correctly, leaving the pain receptors active. This does not mean that there is permanent damage to the nerves, but an alteration in the way they function which can often be linked to other conditions. Some of the conditions that can contribute to Burning Mouth Syndrome include but are not limited to:
Nutritional Deficiencies- Low levels of Iron, Zinc, and Vitamin B-12 can contribute to neuropathies and BMS.
Dry Mouth- Dry mouth may be the result of diabetes, Sjogrens Syndrome, radiation therapy, or it can be a side effect of too many medications.
Hormonal Changes- Women experiencing menopause and post-menopausal women have a higher incidence of BMS.
Fungal Infections- Oral Candidiasis can directly cause a burning sensation. It does not always appear as a white film and can often be overlooked.
Acid Reflux- Reflux can be its own problem secondary to over-production of stomach acid, inability of the muscles to hold the acid within the stomach or dietary concerns. It can also be the result of undiagnosed sleep apnea. Acid insult to the oral tissues can cause burning, discomfort or alteration of taste.
Sensitivity to Foods or Dental Products- Spicy foods or flavoring such as Cinnamon can directly irritate the taste buds. Reactions or allergies to dental products can have the same effect. The products that most commonly cause these issues are toothpaste ingredients, alcohol containing mouthwashes, denture adhesives, acrylics and non-precious metals.
The best way to find out what is causing this condition involves both a dental and physical exam. The dentist can readily recognize oral candidiasis, sensitivity, and dry mouth, while the physician can perform bloodwork to see if there are nutritional deficiencies or systemic conditions contributing. Addressing any underlying disorders found by both the physician and dentist should help.
Finally there are a few steps you can take first, before being tested. Drinking water regularly and chewing sugarless gum to promote saliva may take care of the symptoms. Avoiding tobacco and products with alcohol should also help, as well as avoiding hot, spicy, or acidic foods. Introduction of a quality daily multivitamin may also be of benefit. If the condition persists despite all of these efforts, talk with your general dentist and your physician. For many, Burning Mouth Syndrome symptoms can be alleviated or vastly improved.Read More