Burning mouth syndrome is a sensation of burning or irritation in the tongue and lining of the mouth that persists for weeks or months. For some people, it is severe enough to affect quality of life
Burning mouth syndrome can happen spontaneously or following:
- oral health problems like candidiasis (thrush), lichen planus, aphthous ulcers;
- tooth and gum disease, new dentures;
- whole body illness like thyroid, liver, autoimmune diseases and diabetes;
- gastro-oesophageal reflux;
- nutritional deficiencies;
- And is more common in people with dentures.
Symptoms vary in severity over time. Symptoms can be worse when:
- the mouth is dry: not drinking enough water, side effect of tablets for other problems or salivary gland disease;
- exposed to irritants: very hot or very cold food and drink, spicy foods, rough foods, alcohol, smoking, some mouth washes, lozenges, chewing gum;
- You are tired, worried, stressed or distressed.
Burning mouth syndrome is assessed by:
- Examination of the ears, nose, mouth and neck;
- Biopsies of the lining of the mouth or the salivary glands in the lip;
- Blood tests for diabetes, thyroid, liver and kidney function, Iron, B12, folate and auto-immune disease;
- Your dentist can check the teeth, gums and jaw.
To reduce symptoms:
- Avoid things that irritate the lining of the mouth: hard lollies, chips, crusty bread, alcohol, cigarettes, chili, very hot and very cold food and drink, lozenges and mouth washes containing alcohol, menthol or eucalyptus;
- Eat and drink regularly to prevent dry mouth. Eat vegetables and fruit every day and make water your main drink
- Treat any underlying causes found on biopsy and blood tests;
- Quit smoking;
- Learn techniques to manage stress (exercise, relaxation, meditation) or have treatment with your GP and psychologist for anxiety and depression if this is affecting you.
If burning mouth sensation persists and is severely reducing your quality of life or disrupting sleep, we can consider medications to reduce the sensation. These medications act on the sensory nerves from the mouth to the brain and are similar to medications used for chronic pain. They can have significant side effects including drowsiness and dry mouth. Starting with simple measures to reduce symptoms first is best.