Burning mouth syndrome
Burning mouth syndrome
Burning mouth syndrome is the medical term for ongoing (chronic) or recurrent burning in the mouth without an obvious cause. The discomfort may affect your tongue, gums, lips, inside of your cheeks, roof of your mouth or widespread areas of your whole mouth. Burning mouth syndrome appears suddenly and 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 often get burning mouth syndrome under better control.
Other names for burning mouth syndrome include scalded mouth syndrome, burning tongue syndrome, burning lips syndrome, stomatodynia and glossodynia.
Symptoms of burning mouth syndrome may include:
The discomfort from burning mouth syndrome typically has several different patterns. It may occur every day, with little discomfort when you wake, but become worse as the day progresses. Or it may start as soon as you wake up and last all day. Or discomfort may come and go.
Whatever pattern of mouth discomfort you have, burning mouth syndrome may last for months to years. In rare cases, 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. However, your risk may be greater if:
Burning mouth syndrome usually begins spontaneously, with no known triggering factor. But some 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 discomfort. They include:
Preparing for your appointment
You're likely to start by first seeing your family doctor or dentist for mouth discomfort. Because burning mouth syndrome is associated with such a wide variety of other medical conditions, your doctor or dentist may refer you to another specialist, such as a skin doctor (dermatologist), a doctor who specializes in ear, nose and throat problems (ENT) or another type of doctor.
What you can do
Some basic questions to ask your doctor or dentist include:
Don't hesitate to ask questions anytime you don't understand something.
What to expect from your doctor
Tests and diagnosis
There's no one test that can determine if you have burning mouth syndrome. 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, oral habits and oral care routine. In addition, your doctor will likely perform a general medical exam, looking for signs of other conditions.
You may have some of the following tests:
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 discomfort.
For example, replacing poorly fitting dentures or taking supplements for a vitamin deficiency may relieve your discomfort. 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, so treatment is aimed at controlling the symptoms. You may need to try several treatment methods before finding one or a combination that helps reduce your mouth discomfort. Treatment options may include:
Lifestyle and home remedies
In addition to medical treatment and prescription medications, self-help measures may improve your symptoms. You may find these beneficial for reducing chronic mouth discomfort:
Coping and support
Burning mouth syndrome can be uncomfortable and frustrating. 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 the chronic discomfort of burning mouth syndrome:
There's no known way to prevent burning mouth syndrome. But by avoiding tobacco, acidic foods, spicy foods and carbonated beverages, and excessive stress, you may be able to reduce the discomfort from burning mouth syndrome or prevent your discomfort from getting worse.
Last Updated: 2013-02-07
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