Reviewed by Dr. Thao Le, DDS, MD

Burning mouth syndrome (BMS) is a complex condition that leads to a persistent feeling of burning in the mouth. The pain is often described as feeling scalded by a hot beverage.

Despite its discomfort, there are no visible signs of irritation or lesions within the oral cavity. BMS can significantly impact one’s quality of life, turning even the simple act of eating into a challenging ordeal.

Table of Contents

What Causes Burning Mouth Syndrome?

There are two types of burning mouth syndrome: primary and secondary.  Primary BMS occurs when there is no identifiable underlying medical condition or oral health issue. Secondary BMS, can be linked to various conditions such as dry mouth, acid reflux, hormonal imbalances, and nutritional deficiencies. It can also be a side effect of certain medications or chemical irritants.

Risk Factors

While the exact cause of burning mouth syndrome is unknown, there are several risk factors that have been linked to its development. These include:

  • Certain medication
  • Recent dental procedures
  • Recent illness
  • Allergic reaction to food
  • Certain medical conditions such as Parkinson’s Disease, fibromyalgia, neuropathy and autoimmune disease
  • Stress
  • Chronic anxiety
  • Depression
  • Traumatic life event

You may be more at risk if you are:

  • A female in perimenopause or menopause
  • A smoker
  • Over the age of 50

Common Symptoms of BMS

BMS comes with a range of symptoms that can vary from person to person, such as:

  • A burning sensation in the tongue, gums, lips, or throughout the mouth
  • Dry mouth and an increased thirst
  • A metallic taste or other taste alterations
  • Sensitivity to certain foods, especially acidic foods like citrus fruits and spicy foods

How is BMS Diagnosed?

Diagnosing BMS requires a thorough investigation as there are no specific diagnostic criteria. The process usually involves:

  1. Review of medical history and any medications taken.
  2. Physical examination of the oral cavity to rule out other conditions like a fungal infection or geographic tongue.
  3. Blood tests to check for nutritional deficiencies or hormone imbalances.
  4. Oral swab tests to detect any signs of oral infection.

Treatment Options

Currently, there is no cure for BMS, but several treatment options can help manage symptoms:

  • Medications: Such as hormone replacement therapy, alpha-lipoic acid, topical capsaicin, antifungals, Vitamin B12, folate, acid reflux medication, and certain antidepressants that can modify pain perception.
  • Saliva replacements or mouth rinses: To manage dry mouth.
  • Behavioral therapy: Aiding patients in dealing with chronic pain.
  • Dietary changes: Avoiding acidic foods, spicy foods, cinnamon and citrus fruits that can irritate the mouth.

For temporary relief, consider these simple strategies:

  • Avoid tobacco and alcoholic beverages.
  • Sip water or suck on ice chips frequently.
  • Chew sugar-free gum to stimulate saliva production.

Foley & Le: Your Partner in Oral Health

Burning mouth syndrome may not have a straightforward cause or cure, but with proper management and support, its impact on daily life can be minimized. If you are experiencing symptoms of BMS, consult with one of our oral surgeons.  They can work with you to develop a treatment plan that best suits your needs. 

If you are searching for an oral surgeon in Boulder or an ‘oral surgeon near me,’ we can help. Call (303) 444-2255 to book an appointment or complete the online inquiry form.

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