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Expert Article: What Is Burning Mouth Syndrome? Causes And Symptoms

Burning mouth syndrome (BMS) is a chronic condition characterized by pain, burning, and itching sensations in the mouth, with or without visible signs. BMS is a common condition that is also intriguing due to its multifactorial causes and diagnostic challenges.


BMS has a strong preference for middle-aged and elderly women. It could be caused by one or more of the following factors:

  • Anxiety, stress, phobias, and depression are just a few of the mental health issues that can trigger BMS.
  • Peripheral neuropathies/neurologic disorders.
  • Gastric disorders and long-term illnesses (such as diabetes).
  • Nutrional deficiencies.
  • Hormonal imbalance and menopause.
  • Immune system disorders (such as Sjogren's syndrome).
  • Dry mouth (xerostomia).
  • Medications taken for a long time.
  • Allergy to mercury and amalgam (silver fillings), methyl methacrylate, cobalt chloride, zinc, and benzoyl peroxide, among other dental materials.
  • Peanuts, chestnuts, cinnamon, and other foods may cause allergic reactions.

How does it feel?

  • The pain may appear suddenly or develop after a period of stress, illness, or long-term medication.
  • It could last anywhere from a couple of weeks to a few months.
  • When you wake up, you are never in pain! Throughout the day, the pain worsens, peaking in the afternoon and evening.
  • A sore mouth (similar to a chronic mouth ulcer), mild burning, tingling, numbness, and itching are all present.
  • As the mouth becomes dry, swallowing becomes difficult.
  • Anxiety and irritability develop as a result.
  • There is a change in flavor.
  • It can occasionally be as painful as a toothache.

Take a look at the physiological changes that occur in BMS:

To be honest, the exact cause of BMS and how it progresses is still unknown. The tissues on the inside of the mouth are extremely sensitive to heat and touch. Under a microscope, the tissue was discovered to have an increased number of nerve fibres with an altered structure. The exact cause of these malformations is difficult to pin down.

When diagnosing BMS, keep the following in mind:

  • In the majority of cases, BMS symptoms can be alleviated by eating and drinking.
  • Sleep is unaffected by BMS.
  • The burning sensation can be felt throughout the mouth.
  • The sensations persisted for approximately 4-6 months without any change.

The following is a description of the treatment method:

A correct diagnosis is crucial in the treatment of BMS. Hence, schedule a visit with your primary care physician or a dentist.

The mouth must be thoroughly examined before considering any other causes:

  • The ulcers (if any) in the mouth are treated with gels prescribed for sore mouth.
  • Mucosal lesions: a mild steroid ointment therapy is prescribed for diseases like oral lichen planus, along with an oral hygiene regimen.
  • For dry mouth, vitamin C lozenges and increased fluid intake are recommended.

If the mouth appears to be in good shape, the other factors are considered:

  • People take vitamin B complex, vitamin D, and zinc supplements orally to treat nutritional deficiency.
  • Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) can be used to treat the symptoms of menopause and hormonal fluctuations.
  • Possible use of alternative medicines to counteract the effects of the ongoing medications.

Nerve injury, Parkinson's disease, and psychiatric disorders necessitate both neurologist-prescribed medication and psychiatric counselling.

To Summarize

BMS is a difficult condition to understand. It demands a multidisciplinary approach for diagnosis and treatment planning. The treatment options are largely empirical, which can be frustrating for both doctors and patients. Some patients recover with only minor lifestyle changes, while others require multiple therapy changes to see results.

Story first published: Tuesday, June 21, 2022, 13:07 [IST]
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