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Burning Mouth Syndrome: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment

The burning mouth syndrome consistently leaves patients feeling like they are sipping a very hot water. It leaves the tongue and the general mouth area scalded, and it could be highly uncomfortable. It has been reported that only 20,000 people in the United States are diagnosed with this burning mouth syndrome annually. Hence, it is safe to say it is quite a rare condition.

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What is Burning Mouth Syndrome?

It is a general mouth disorder that leaves the tongue with a burning sensation. However, this sensation also could occur around the palate, roof of the mouth, tongue, and other areas around the mouth.

Also, the burning sensation could range from a slight burning sensation to a very severe one. Regardless of the degree of burning around the tongue, experts have identified that the sensation begins almost suddenly without any apparent trigger or cause.

Sometimes called Stomatodynia or Glossodynia, this disorder leaves a scalding sensation on the tongue, making the patient constantly feel a burning or tingling sensation. This disorder is quite rare and very complicated to understand without professional help.

Thus, burning mouth syndrome is very difficult to diagnose. Experts often find themselves referring patients suffering from this syndrome to conduct multiple tests such as oral swab tests, allergy tests, imaging tests, tissue biopsy, and many other related tests. This is because there are hardly any visible symptoms or reactions from patients suffering from the burning mouth syndrome.

Types of Burning Mouth Syndrome

Due to the difficulties in identifying syndrome’s symptoms, the burning mouth syndrome has been classified into two types: The primary burning mouth syndrome and the secondary burning mouth syndrome.

Primary Burning Mouth Syndrome

This type of burning mouth syndrome is not associated with any underlying health issues, and it deals primarily with problems with the taste bud. Thus, there is damage in the sensory nerves responsible for taste and pain around the mouth.

Secondary Burning Mouth Syndrome

This burning mouth syndrome class is often associated with underlying health issues such as oral thrush, medication-induced dry mouth, nutritional deficiency, hormonal changes, and many more.

Medical-induced dry mouth is caused when certain medication, such as high blood pressure medication, or certain treatment, such as chemotherapy or radiation therapy, causes the salivary glands not to produce enough saliva to keep the mouth wet.

Also, oral thrush is closely associated with yeast infection, where an overgrowth of the candida fungus lines the mucous membrane surrounding the mouth. This may result in a burning sensation on the tongue or a swollen tongue and soreness around the mouth. The typical sign of this infection is the presence of lesions or white patches all over the tongue. As a more critical sign, these lesions may spread to the lip, palate, jaw area, and the roof of the mouth.

It is imperative to note that lack of essential minerals such as vitamin B12, irons, zinc, and so many more essential vitamins and minerals may lead to burning mouth syndrome in the long run.

Other Identified causes of Burning Mouth Syndrome

  • Sjogren’s syndrome
  • Fungal infection
  • Acid reflux
  • Bruxism
  • Yeast infections
  • Diabetes
  • General oral allergies

Watching out for Common Symptoms

While secondary burning mouth syndrome is relatively easy to diagnose due to the associated health issues that may result in the condition, primary burning mouth syndrome is not often easy to diagnose. However, experts have identified general symptoms that may indicate that a patient may be suffering from the burning mouth syndrome. These symptoms include:

Incessant Thirst

Due to a terrible dry mouth, the patient might consistently feel thirsty and may need a drink at frequent intervals than necessary. This is often not out of genuine dehydration but an urge to ease the dryness of the mouth. People suffering from both primary and secondary burning mouth syndrome might experience this incessant thirst coupled with a mild or very severe scalded sensation on the tongue.

Dry Mouth

This seems to be the most relatable and the commonest sign of this syndrome. The dry mouth itself is an oral condition that affects the daily activities of people suffering from it. It is termed xerostomia and can also affect the patient’s taste, swallowing, and eating experience. It can be an initial symptom of burning mouth syndrome, and it can be the underlying oral condition constituting a secondary burning mouth syndrome.

Whichever the case, it must not be left untreated for a long time. An untreated burning mouth syndrome may lead to dental erosion and acute teeth cavities. It may also affect the patient’s speech and leaves a terrible metallic or bitter taste on the tongue.

Loss of Taste

When the sense of taste is suddenly lost, or a patient begins to feel difficulty eating due to dry mouth, it might be a sign of burning mouth syndrome. The patient should also watch out for soreness and swollen areas around the mouth and tongue. Severe dryness could result in a harrowing eating experience and an uncomfortable metallic or bitter taste experience for a patient.

Other related symptoms may include incessant burning sensation in the mouth, numbness in the mouth, very painful swallowing or eating experience, increased temperature within the mouth area, and so on.

Possible Treatment for Burning Mouth Syndrome

Effectively treating burning mouth syndrome will depend on whether the patient is experiencing a primary or secondary burning mouth syndrome. In most secondary burning mouth syndrome cases, treating the underlying health conditions often cure the burning mouth syndrome.

However, if the patient is experiencing a primary burning mouth syndrome, common treatment often includes medications like clonazepam, gabapentin, amitriptyline, diazepam, capsaicin, nortriptyline, all in low dosages. Also, in some cases, doctors often recommend psychotherapy and exercise regimens to help patients.

During the treatment period, patients are expected to stay away from food or substances that may further irritate the mouth. Things to stay away from may include alcohol, smoking, acidic food and fruits, strong spices, and hot drinks. Sucking on ice cubes or drinking old-friendly substances might help during the treatment period.

Those at Risk

Although the condition is quite rare, a certain class of people might be at higher risk of having burning mouth syndrome. According to medical research, these class of people includes:

  • Perimenopausal or postmenopausal women
  • Patients dealing with depression or anxiety disorder
  • Smokers
  • Patient’s with a recent dental procedure. However, dentures don’t usually cause burning mouth syndrome. Dentures may be a contributory factor or worsen the syndrome in cases where they don’t fit properly.
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