What is Burning Mouth Syndrome?
Burning Mouth Syndrome (BMS) is a hot feeling or sensation which can affect your tongue, lips, palate, or areas all over your mouth. BMS is sometimes called ‘glossodynia’.
You get this feeling when there are changes in the way the nerves in your mouth send messages to your brain – for example, about taste and temperature. When your brain doesn’t understand these messages properly it can cause the feeling of pain or burning.
Although some parts of your mouth may feel like they are burning, they will not be hot to the touch. You might not be able to see any soreness or redness in the areas that are hurting.
BMS is sometimes called a ‘neuropathic pain’, as it happens when there is damage to the nerves.
What causes BMS?
It’s hard to say. No one knows exactly what causes BMS. However, some possible causes include:
- Hormone changes.
- Stress, anxiety, or depression.
- Problems with your immune system.
- Damage to the nerves controlling taste or pain.
- A reaction to certain types of toothpaste or mouthwashes.
- Badly fitting dentures or being allergic to the materials used to make dentures.
Are there any medical conditions that can cause it?
There are some medical conditions that might cause BMS. They are:
- Dry mouth.
- Acid reflux (when acid from your stomach comes up into your mouth).
- Thrush (a fungal infection in your mouth, also called ‘candida’).
- Nutritional deficiencies (for example, when your body does not make or store enough iron, vitamin B12 or folic acid).
- Thyroid problems.
In some cases, BMS may have more than one cause.
Who does it affect?
Anyone can have BMS, but it is more common in middle-aged or older people going through menopause (‘the change’).
What kind of problems might I have?
You may have a moderate to severe burning feeling on your tongue, palate, lips, gums or inside your cheek.
For some people the feeling starts in the morning and builds up to a peak by the evening, often easing by night time. Some people have a burning feeling all the time. For others, the pain comes and goes. Other symptoms may include numbness or tingling of your mouth or tongue, a bitter or metallic taste, or a dry or sore mouth.
People often describe BMS as feeling like you have scalded your mouth with hot food or drink.