Burning mouth syndrome
Burning mouth syndrome
Burning mouth syndrome causes chronic burning pain in your mouth. The pain from burning mouth syndrome may affect your tongue, gums, lips, inside of your cheeks, roof of your mouth, or widespread areas of your whole mouth. The pain can be severe, as if you scalded your mouth.
Unfortunately, the cause of burning mouth syndrome often can't be determined. Although that makes treatment more difficult, don't despair. By working closely with your health care team, you can usually get burning mouth syndrome under control.
Other names for burning mouth syndrome include scalded mouth syndrome, burning tongue syndrome, burning lips syndrome, glossodynia and stomatodynia.
Symptoms of burning mouth syndrome include:
The pain from burning mouth syndrome typically has several different patterns. It may occur every day, with little pain when you wake but becoming worse as the day progresses. Or it may start as soon as you wake up and last all day. Or pain may come and go, and you may even have some entirely pain-free days.
Whatever pattern of mouth pain you have, burning mouth syndrome may last for years. In some cases, though, symptoms may suddenly go away on their own or become less frequent. Burning mouth syndrome usually doesn't cause any noticeable physical changes to your tongue or mouth.
When to see a doctor
The cause of burning mouth syndrome can be classified as either primary or secondary.
Primary burning mouth syndrome
Secondary burning mouth syndrome
Underlying problems that may be linked to secondary burning mouth syndrome include:
Burning mouth syndrome is uncommon. Your risk may be greater if:
Burning mouth syndrome usually begins spontaneously, with no known triggering factor. But some research studies suggest that certain factors may increase your risk of developing burning mouth syndrome. These risk factors may include:
Complications that burning mouth syndrome may cause or be associated with are mainly related to pain and include:
Preparing for your appointment
You're likely to start by first seeing your family doctor, general practitioner or dentist for mouth pain. Because burning mouth syndrome is associated with such a wide variety of other medical conditions, your doctor may refer you to a specialist for screening and diagnosis and possibly treatment. Your health care team may include a dermatologist, dentist, psychiatrist, psychologist or a doctor who specializes in ear, nose and throat problems (otolaryngologist).
Because appointments can be brief, and because there's often a lot of ground to cover, it's a good idea to be well prepared for your appointment. Here's some information to help you get ready for your appointment, and what to expect from your doctor or dentist.
What you can do
Your time with your doctor or dentist is limited, so preparing a list of questions ahead of time will help you make the most of your time together. List your questions from most important to least important, in case time runs out before you get through them all. For burning mouth syndrome, some basic questions to ask your doctor or dentist include:
In addition to the questions that you've prepared to ask your doctor or dentist, don't hesitate to ask questions during your appointment.
What to expect from your doctor
Tests and diagnosis
There's no one test that can determine if you have burning mouth syndrome or what may be causing your mouth pain. Instead, your doctor or dentist will try to rule out other problems before diagnosing burning mouth syndrome.
Your doctor or dentist will review your medical history and medications, examine your mouth, and ask you to describe your symptoms, your oral habits and your oral care routine. In addition, your doctor will likely perform a general medical examination, looking for signs of any other conditions.
As part of the diagnostic process, you may have some of the following tests:
In addition, if you take medications that may contribute to mouth pain, your doctor may suggest temporarily stopping those medications, if possible, to see if your pain goes away. Don't try this on your own, since it can be dangerous to stop some medications.
Treatments and drugs
There's no one sure way to treat primary burning mouth syndrome, and solid research on the most effective methods is lacking. Treatment depends on your particular signs and symptoms, as well as any underlying conditions that may be causing your mouth pain. That's why it's important to try to pinpoint the cause. Once any underlying causes are treated, your burning mouth syndrome symptoms should get better.
If a cause can't be found, treatment can be challenging. There's no known cure for primary burning mouth syndrome. You may need to try several treatment methods before finding one or a combination that is helpful in reducing your mouth pain. Treatment options may include:
Surgery isn't recommended for burning mouth syndrome.
Lifestyle and home remedies
In addition to medical treatment and prescription medications, self-help measures may help improve your symptoms. You may find these self-help measures beneficial for reducing chronic mouth pain:
Coping and support
Burning mouth syndrome can be painful and frustrating, especially since it can take months or years to get a diagnosis and effective treatment. Because of that, it can reduce your quality of life if you don't take steps to stay positive and hopeful.
Consider some of these techniques to help cope with burning mouth syndrome:
There's no known way to prevent burning mouth syndrome. But by avoiding tobacco, acidic foods and drinks, and excessive stress, you may be able to reduce the pain from burning mouth syndrome or prevent your mouth pain from getting worse.
Last Updated: 2010-07-17
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