What is burning mouth syndrome?

If your mouth is suddenly burning but you haven't eaten spicy food, you may be asking yourself what could cause the unpleasant sensation. Burning mouth syndrome is one possible cause, but just what is burning mouth syndrome exactly?

Burning mouth syndrome is a chronic or recurring condition causing a burning sensation in the mouth. The burning can occur in the mouth on the lips, tongue, palate, throat and cheek area and it can become so intense that it feels as if you actually scalded your mouth. This syndrome is also sometimes called stomatodynia or glossodynia.

In addition to the burning sensation, some other issues that occasionally accompany burning mouth syndrome, including:

  • Dry mouth (xerostomia)
  • Sore mouth
  • Tingling sensation in the mouth
  • Numbness in the mouth or tongue

Possible Causes

Doctors and dentists are not always able to find the cause of this unpleasant and painful disorder. According to the American Dental Association and the Mayo Clinic, it has been linked to multiple conditions — most of which require a medical diagnosis to confirm — including:

  • Menopause or hormonal changes
  • Peripheral nervous system problems
  • Central nervous system problems
  • Diabetes
  • Xerostomia, or dry mouth
  • Oral issues (tongue thrusting, grinding of teeth)
  • Oral thrush (Fungal infection of the mouth)
  • Acid reflux
  • Geographic tongue
  • Nutritional deficiencies
  • Ill-fitting dentures
  • Allergies
  • Anxiety and stress

Medical Solutions

It is important to see your physician or dentist for an examination and oral evaluation. They will review your medical history, determine what is the cause of this problem and determine next steps for diagnosis. Medical testing includes, blood tests, salivary measurements to confirm you have a reduced saliva flow, biopsy in the oral cavity, allergy testing and radiographic imaging. After testing, if a medical cause is found, your dentist or doctor might recommend any number of prescription solutions, including saliva replacement products, medications that help control nerve pain, treatment of oral candidiasis and relieving stress and anxiety.

Short-Term Relief

For immediate relief, cut acidic foods and drinks from your diet. Replace acidic foods with mild or alkaline foods, such as bananas, raisins, dried apricots, dairy products and potatoes.

Tobacco, gum and highly acidic foods and drinks aggravate tender mouth tissues. Therefore, though not a long-term solution, avoiding them for a couple of weeks is a quick way to reduce discomfort to some degree. Keep some cool water on hand for instant relief. Also, to keep teeth and gums clean during an outbreak of burning mouth syndrome, try to use products designed for sensitive teeth, and if you really want to use mouthwash, look for one designed to alleviate the symptoms of dry mouth.

You don't have to suffer with burning mouth syndrome, but you'll probably need help from a health care professional to find the cause and get true relief. The long list of numerous possible causes and solutions makes it hard to find a home cure, so you may be left wondering, "What is burning mouth syndrome?" However, you can get a bit of short-term relief through some simple dietary changes.

This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.

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