What Is Burning Mouth Syndrome?

Burning Mouth Syndrome (BMS) is the name for burning pain in your mouth that has no known cause. Most often, the pain is on the tip of your tongue or roof of your mouth. But sometimes it's in the front of your mouth or on the inner part of your lips. It often lasts for many years.

About a third of people who have BMS say it started after some kind of dental work, an illness, or a course of medication. But most can't link it to any unusual event.

Symptoms

Your mouth can feel like you just drank hot coffee or had some hot soup. You also might have trouble swallowing, a dry mouth, a sore throat, or a bad taste of metal in your mouth.

If the painful burning doesn't go away or gets worse, see your dentist or doctor.

Causes

Women, especially those who've gone through menopause, have it more often than men. The changes in hormones may trigger some cases of BMS. Other possibilities include:

Some health problems also might play a role in BMS. They include:

Diagnosis

Your doctor will want to know about your symptoms and when they began. He'll also ask if you have allergies, take any medications, or smoke or drink often. He'll examine your mouth and check for infection.

You may need several tests to rule out other medical issues. These include:

  • Allergy test to see if you have a reaction to a product or medication
  • Biopsy (a small piece of tissue taken from your mouth and tested)
  • Blood tests to see if you have thyroid problems or diabetes
  • CT (computerized tomography) scan -- several X-rays taken from different angles then put together to show a more complete picture
  • MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) -- powerful magnets and radio waves used to make detailed images
  • Salivary flow tests to measure your saliva

If none of these has clear results, your doctor then may say you have BMS.

Continued

Treatment

If your doctor finds a health problem or other cause for your burning mouth, then you have what's called secondary BMS. She'll treat the issue, and your symptoms should get better. If not, there's no known cure specifically for BMS, but there are ways to ease and control your symptoms.

Depending on the cause of your BMS, your doctor may suggest one or more of these treatments:

You can do a few things that may help your symptoms as well:

  • Avoid acidic foods like tomatoes and orange and citrus juices.
  • Avoid alcohol, including mouthwashes with alcohol.
  • Avoid cinnamon and mint.
  • Avoid spicy foods.
  • Avoid tobacco.
  • Chew sugar-free gum (so you'll make more saliva).
  • Drink a lot of fluids.
  • Reduce stress with yoga or hobbies.
  • Stay socially active or join a pain support group.
  • Suck on crushed ice.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Melinda Ratini, DO, MS on September 20, 2016

Sources

American Academy of Oral & Maxillofacial Pathology: "Burning Mouth/Burning Syndrome."

Journal of the American Dental Association: "Burning Mouth Syndrome."

Mayo Clinic: "Burning mouth syndrome."

National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research.

Oral Health Foundation: "Burning Mouth Syndrome."

Pain Management Research Institute: "Burning Mouth/Tongue Syndrome (Glossodynia/Glossopyrosis)."

Yount, K. Practical Pain Management, published online February 26, 2013.

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