You’ve probably felt like your mouth was on fire if you’ve eaten spicy foods. (Just FYI: dairy products seem especially helpful in taking this type of burning feeling away.) Sensations caused by something like this fade, but imagine having to live with a frequent or constant burning sensation and not knowing why! Dentists and physicians call this condition Burning Mouth Syndrome. Let’s explore what it is and what you can do if you have it.
What is burning mouth syndrome?
Burning mouth syndrome is characterized by a painful feeling in your mouth that lasts for months or years. Some people describe it as a burning sensation, others as a scalding feel, and still others say it is more of a prickly feeling. It can occur anywhere in your mouth, but common areas are your tongue, lips, or roof of your mouth.
The sensations can be constant or occasional. A good many people have reported that their symptoms start in the late morning, peak by evening and subside at night.
Other symptoms include tingling or numbness of your mouth, bitter or metallic changes to your sense of taste, and dry or sore mouth. Because this condition is so long lasting and finding its root cause is difficult or frustrating, you may also experience depression or anxiety.
What causes burning mouth syndrome?
No one knows for sure. Several possible causes have been identified, but it is possible your symptoms could be caused by more than one factor or the cause may not become apparent until later in your treatment.
Possible causes of your burning mouth syndrome include:
- Damage to the nerves that control pain or your sense of taste
- Hormonal changes (which explains why this problem is most common in women of middle age or older)
- Dry mouth (often caused by your medications or by a disorder such as diabetes, thyroid problems or Sjogren’s syndrome)
- Nutritional deficiencies
- Oral fungal infections
- Acid reflux
- Poor fitting dentures (or other oral appliances) or an allergy to materials used in these appliances
- Anxiety or depression
What can I do?
First, discuss what you are feeling with your physician or dentist. He or she will ask for a detailed medical history to help identify possible underlying causes. A thorough oral exam is also needed. If your physician is not comfortable with this, he or she may refer you to your dentist. You may also have blood work (to look for infection, nutritional deficiencies or medical diseases), an oral swab (to check for oral fungal infections) and allergy testing (for dental materials, foods or other suspected allergens).
Because causes are so diverse, it may be necessary for you to see several medical or dental professionals before a diagnosis is made and your treatment can begin. Your professionals understand that this is a frustrating time for you. Sometimes treatment of the symptoms can begin even though an underlying cause has not yet been found.
In the meantime, you can try these self-care tips to help relieve your symptoms:
- Sip water frequently (plain water is best)
- Suck on ice chips
- Avoid irritating substances such as hot or spicy foods, mouthwashes that contain alcohol, and products high in acid like citrus fruits or juices
- Chew sugarless gum
- Brush your teeth or dental appliances with baking soda and water
- Avoid alcohol and tobacco products
What treatments are possible?
Treatments are tailored to your individual needs and depend on the cause of your symptoms. If no underlying cause is immediately found, treatment is often aimed at relieving your symptoms.
Treatments can include any of the following:
- Adjusting or replacing your ill-fitting dental appliances
- Prescribing to relieve your dry mouth, to treat an oral fungal infection, to help control pain from a damaged nerve, or to relieve your anxiety or depression
- Switching your medications to ones that don’t contribute to problems in the mouth (if possible)
- Treating existing disorders or diseases (such as diabetes, thyroid problems or Sjogren’s syndrome)
- Taking supplements for nutritional deficiencies
*Note: The information in this article is not meant to replace the clinical judgement of your healthcare professionals
As you can see, finding the cause of your burning mouth syndrome is not an easy path and may take some time, but if you persevere, it should be possible to ease some of your symptoms. If you are suffering from burning mouth syndrome and do not have a dentist, please contact my office at 440-960-1940. You may also contact us through our website at www.drjrobb.com or on facebook at www.facebook.com/drjenniferrobb