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Burning mouth syndrome

Burning mouth syndrome, or BMS, is a hot sensation or feeling which can affect your lips, tongue, palate or all areas in your mouth. This condition is also known as glossodynia. You may experience this feeling when changes occur in how nerves in the mouth send messages to your brain, like temperature and taste.

While some parts of the mouth may give a burning sensation, they will not feel hot to touch. You may also not see redness or soreness in the areas that hurt you. BMS is sometimes referred to as neuropathic pain because it occurs when there is damage to the nerves.

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What can cause BMS?

There is no specific cause of BMS, but possible causes include:

  • Depression, anxiety or stress
  • Hormone changes
  • A reaction to certain types of mouthwash or toothpaste
  • Damage to the nerves controlling pain or taste
  • Problems with the immune system
  • Ill-fitting dentures or allergy to materials used to make dentures

Which medical conditions can cause BMS?

Certain medical conditions can cause BMS. They include:

  • Acid reflux (when acid from the stomach backs up into the mouth)
  • Thrush or candida (a fungal infection in the mouth)
  • Diabetes
  • Nutritional deficiencies such as insufficient production or storage of folic acid, iron or vitamin B12
  • Thyroid problems

More than one medical condition at once may cause BMS

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Who can BMS affect?

BMS can affect anyone, but it is more common in middle-aged or older women undergoing menopause.

What can BMS cause?

You may experience moderate to severe burning sensation on the tongue, gums, lips, palate or inside the cheeks. Some people experience the feeling in the morning, which peaks in the evening and eases at night, while others experience it all the time. The pain may also be recurring.

Other symptoms may include tingling or numbness of the tongue or mouth, a dry or sore mouth, or a metallic or bitter taste in the mouth. Many people report that BMS feels like when you scald your mouth with a hot drink or food.

How is it diagnosed?

Your dentist will examine your mouth to identify the cause of the problem. They will review your medical history and refer you to a doctor for further investigations. This may include swabs or blood tests to check if any nutritional deficiencies, infections or other medical conditions are the cause.

Allergy testing from a dermatologist may be necessary, and you will get a referral. You may need blood testing to check for diabetes or thyroid problems.

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What are the treatments for BMS?

The treatment for BMS varies, depending on the causes. Your dental team may recommend supplements if the BMS results from a poor diet. If necessary, your dentist will replace or adjust irritating dentures or prescribe medication for fungal infection in your mouth.

Some doctors may prescribe low-dose anti-depressants or a counselling course because BMS can affect self-esteem and cause depression from dealing with pain daily. Your doctor may change your medications if your BMS is due to dry mouth, a side effect of certain medications.

Other therapies include yoga, hypnotherapy, meditation and relaxation because they help some people manage their anxiety.

What are the home remedies?

The following home remedies can help ease your symptoms at home.

  • Sip water often
  • Suck on crushed ice
  • Chew sugar-free gum to help you produce more saliva, which prevents dry mouth
  • Avoid things that can irritate your mouth, like spicy and hot foods, mouthwashes containing alcohol, or acidic juices and fruits
  • Avoid alcohol products and tobacco
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What should I do if I think I have BMS?

Ensure you visit your dental team for a check-up. Your dental care provider can diagnose if your BMS results from a dental issue like dry mouth or ill-fitting dentures or if you are allergic to something used to make your dentures. Your dentist may recommend products to help ease dry mouth and treat fungal infections.

If your dentist doesn’t find a dental cause for the BMS, they may recommend visiting your doctor for a blood test to determine the cause of your BMS.

How long can BMS last?

Since the exact cause of BMS is still unknown, planning the right course of treatment is difficult. This makes BMS a long-term condition that can affect you for a few months, years or throughout your life.

If you find ways to limit or cope with the pain, plus therapies or treatments from your doctor, you can have a comfortable life. Ensure you have a record of how different types of treatment affect your symptoms. Your doctor or team will know which treatments are most suitable for you.

Can any medical condition cause it?

Like other long-term conditions, managing the daily pain can be disturbing and often causes depression. If the cause of your BMS is unknown, your doctor may prescribe low-dose anti-depressants or recommend cognitive behavioural therapy.

Our dental professionals at McKennell Dental Practice are experienced in treating burning mouth syndrome. Visit our practice today or contact 02078348802 for an appointment.

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