Burning mouth syndrome (BMS) is a condition that causes pain and discomfort in the mouth, lips or tongue. If there is no clear cause for this pain, it is called primary BMS. When the pain is caused by an underlying problem, it is called secondary BMS.
Both men and women can get BMS, but it is more common in women than men. It is especially common in women during or after menopause.
People who have BMS often feel like they burned their mouth with a hot liquid. They may also have a dry or sore mouth, or a bitter or metallic taste in their mouth. Some people who have BMS feel pain constantly. For other people, the pain comes and goes. The pain of BMS may be mild in the morning and get worse during the day.
Researchers think one possible cause of BMS is a problem in the nerves that control taste and pain in the tongue. Other possible causes of burning mouth pain include the following:
Certain medical conditions, such as acid reflux, may also cause burning mouth pain.
Depression and anxiety are common in people who have BMS, but it is not known whether these problems cause BMS or if the ongoing pain of BMS leads to depression and anxiety.
There is no simple way to test for BMS. Your doctor will examine your mouth and ask about your medical history to find out what might be causing a burning feeling. Your doctor may also need to do some tests to find out what is causing your symptoms. If no cause can be found, you may have primary BMS.
Treatment will depend on what is causing your mouth pain. If your doctor can identify a specific problem that is causing your symptoms, treating that problem may relieve your pain. For example, symptoms caused by an oral yeast infection called thrush can be treated with an oral antifungal medicine. Saliva replacement products can relieve dry mouth. If you have a nutritional deficiency, your doctor may recommend that you take B vitamins, iron, folate, or zinc supplements.
If your doctor can’t find a cause for your symptoms, he or she will focus on trying to relieve your pain and discomfort. Certain medicines, including some used to treat depression and anxiety, are also used to treat BMS. It is not clear why these medicines help. They may affect how the nerves in your mouth work. Fortunately, 30 percent to 50 percent of people with BMS improve on their own, so you may get better even without treatment.
The following are tips for relieving the symptoms of BMS:
Written by familydoctor.org editorial staff