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What Is Tongue Burning or Burning Mouth Syndrome?

Charley McElrath

A tongue burning sensation is often associated with burning mouth syndrome (BMS). If you suspect you have this, schedule an appointment with a dental care expert. In the meantime, it's a good idea to brush up on the symptoms and signs of this oral condition.

What is Burning Mouth Syndrome?

Individuals who experience burning mouth syndrome may feel "a burning sensation" of their tongue, lips, palate as well as over the entire mouth. Burning mouth syndrome occurs most commonly in middle-aged or older women and in men. Common names for BMS include stomatodynia, glossodynia, scalded mouth syndrome, burning lips syndrome and burning tongue syndrome.

Symptoms of Burning Mouth

"Moderate to severe burning in the mouth is the main symptom of BMS and can persist for months or years," reports the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR). "For many people, the burning sensation begins in late morning, builds to a peak by evening, and often subsides at night. Some feel constant pain; for others, pain comes and goes."

If you are experiencing symptoms of burning in the mouth or tongue burning, make an appointment with your doctor or dentist as soon as possible.

What Causes Burning Mouth Syndrome?

Burning mouth can be caused by certain lifestyle factors or underlying medical or dental conditions, including:

  • Damage to the sensory nerves that regulate pain and taste
  • Nutritional deficiencies in the body, including lack of folate, thiamin, riboflavin, pyridoxine, iron, zinc, and cobalamin
  • Dry mouth (also known as xerostomia and commonly a side effect of diabetes)
  • Sjögren's syndrome
  • Certain medications, including cancer treatment
  • Specific oral conditions, like oral thrush, oral lichen planus, or geographic tongue
  • Reflux of stomach acid that enters the mouth
  • Ill-fitting dentures that irritate mouth tissues by causing soreness and pain
  • Allergies or sensitivities to substances used in dental-work, foods, and food additives
  • Some medications
  • Hormonal changes
  • Oral habits, like teeth grinding, tongue thrusting or biting the tip of the tongue
  • Excessive mouth irritation
  • Psychological factors, such as anxiety or depression

For many individuals, the specific cause of burning mouth syndrome may be influenced by a variety of factors. In other instances, the cause of the mouth symptoms may remain unknown. A doctor or dentist may be able to help you narrow down the factors that may be contributing to your BMS by conducting an oral examination, general review of your medical history and tests (blood work, oral swabbing to determine if oral candidiasis is a factor, allergy testing) may be necessary.

Prevention

The Mayo Clinic states that there is currently no singular treatment for BMS. Fortunately, you can decrease your chances of having to deal with the condition. If you are already suffering from BMS, these actions could help you reduce your symptoms:

  • Stay away from alcoholic beverages and anything with alcohol as an ingredient
  • Avoid tobacco
  • Steer clear of carbonated beverages
  • Avoid acidic and spicy beverages and foods
  • Stay away from products with mint or cinnamon
  • Avoid excessive stress
  • Try milder oral care products
  • Replace irritating dentures or false teeth

Learn more about BMS in the Colgate Oral Care resources.

Source: Flickr

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