What is burning mouth syndrome?
Burning mouth syndrome translates as a continuous burning in the mouth, with no apparent cause. It is a discomfort that can affect the gums, tongue, roof of the mouth, inside of the cheeks or other areas of the mouth. It is a syndrome that can appear suddenly or develop over time. There are two types of burning mouth syndrome, primary and secondary, depending on the causes.
Prognosis of the disease
As a general rule, it is not a serious condition and the symptoms do not cause any major injury. However, it is important to see a specialist when symptoms persist longer than normal.
Symptoms of burning mouth syndrome
The symptoms of burning mouth syndrome are:
- Burning or burning sensation in the mouth, usually in the tongue, but may affect different areas of the entire oral cavity (gums, palate, throat or lips).
- Changes in the sense of taste, becoming a metallic or bitter aftertaste.
- Losing the sense of taste.
- Tingling or numbness of the mouth.
- Sensation of having a dry mouth or feeling thirsty.
Although burning mouth syndrome may last for months or years, or disappear suddenly, it is a disorder that does not cause changes in the mouth or tongue.
Medical tests for burning mouth syndrome
The specialist will analyze the patient’s oral cavity and, in some cases, may also order:
- Allergy tests to analyze the allergy to certain foods, additives and even substances in some dental arrangement.
- Biopsy or oral culture, to analyze a small sample of tissue and examine the possibility of a fungal, viral or bacterial infection.
- Blood tests, where thyroid function, glucose levels, immune function, etc., can be analyzed.
- Salivary tests, to analyze if the salivary flow is too low.
- Gastroesophageal reflux tests.
- Imaging tests, such as an MRI or CT scan to detect other health problems.
What causes burning mouth syndrome?
There are two types of burning mouth syndrome, primary and secondary. Primary or idiopathic burning mouth syndrome is considered to be one in which no clinical abnormalities can be identified. Some studies suggest that it is related to problems in taste and sensory nerves of the central or peripheral nervous system. In contrast, secondary burning mouth syndrome is due to an adjacent cause. Among these causes are:
- Nutritional deficiencies, such as lack of iron, folate (vitamin B9), zinc, thiamine (vitamin B1), riboflavin (vitamin B1), pyrixodine (vitamin B6) and cobalamin (vitamin B12).
- Dry mouth, which can be caused by different medications, salivary gland function problems, health problems, or side effects of some cancer treatments, for example.
- Allergies to food, food seasoning, other food additives, perfumes, substances for dental work, etc.
- Other oral problems, such as fungal infections (oral thrush), oral lichen planus or geographic tongue.
- Gastroesophageal reflux
- Some medications, especially those for high blood pressure.
- Certain oral habits, such as biting the tip of the tongue, tongue thrusting or teeth grinding (bruxism).
- Diabetes or hypothyroidism.
- Psychological factors, such as depression, stress and anxiety.
- Excessive mouth irritation, which can be the result of over-brushing the tongue, using toothpastes that are too abrasive, abusing mouthwashes or drinking too many acidic beverages.
Can it be prevented?
There is no specific way to prevent burning mouth syndrome but there are factors that can alleviate symptoms or prevent symptoms from worsening, such as avoiding tobacco, excessively acidic foods, spicy foods and carbonated beverages.
Treatments for burning mouth syndrome
Treatment of burning mouth syndrome will depend on whether it is primary or secondary. It should be noted that, in the case of primary burning mouth syndrome, there is no cure, so the safest and most effective treatment methods are being investigated. It will depend on the symptoms the patient has, but the goal will always be to reduce them. Treatment options include:
- Specific mouthwashes, or lidocaine.
- Saliva substitute products.
- The pain reliever capsaicin, which comes from jalapeño peppers.
- An anticonvulsant medication.
- Medications to block neuralgia.
- Some antidepressants.
- Cognitive-behavioral therapy.
On the other hand, in secondary burning mouth syndrome, the treatment will depend on any underlying pathology, so it is very important to determine the cause in order to establish a treatment and for the symptoms to improve.
What specialist treats it?
Before any discomfort in the mouth, burning or pain in any area of the mouth it is important to go to a specialist in Dentistry and Stomatology, who will analyze the cause of the problem and establish the best treatment in each case.