Have you ever had a burning pain in your mouth for no apparent reason? It’s possible you might have something called burning mouth syndrome. Usually the pain caused by this syndrome affects the tip of your tongue, or sometimes the roof of your mouth. It can also affect the front of your mouth or the inner part of your lips. Unfortunately, it is a condition that can last for years. Approximately a third of people affected by burning mouth syndrome say it begins after completing a course of medication, having had an illness, or after some dental work. However, most are unable to identify any specific event that could have triggered burning mouth syndrome.
What Are the Symptoms of Burning Mouth Syndrome?
Your mouth might feel as if you have just swallowed some very hot soup or hot coffee. It could feel as if your mouth is too dry or sore, and you may have trouble swallowing. Some people have a nasty taste that is almost metallic. If this sounds familiar, it’s worth seeing your family dentist for a proper examination and diagnosis.
What Can Cause Burning Mouth Syndrome?
Usually, the syndrome affects women more than men and especially after menopause. It is possible hormonal changes may trigger this problem. Other possible causes include allergic reactions to materials used to fabricate dentures or having dentures that fit poorly. You may be more at risk if you suffer from anxiety or depression, or if you have problems affecting your immune system. Damage to the nerves controlling pain or taste may prompt this syndrome, and for some people, it can be a reaction to certain mouth rinses or toothpaste. Being under stress may also cause burning mouth syndrome.
Also, it’s thought that specific health problems may play a part in burning mouth syndrome. These problems include diabetes, thrush which is a fungal infection in the mouth or having a dry mouth that can be caused by various conditions including Sjogren’s syndrome, radiation therapy or certain medications. If your diet is lacking in iron, folic acid or vitamin B12, this could be a possible cause. Acid reflux is another health problem to be aware of because it causes acid from the stomach to come back into the mouth.
How Is Burning Mouth Syndrome Diagnosed?
Your dentist or doctor will want to know all about your symptoms including when you first noticed them. They will need your complete medical history, including information about any prescribed and over-the-counter medications. If you have any allergies, make sure you provide information about them. Also, your dentist will need to know if you smoke or drink frequently. A dental examination is essential to check for signs of infection. You might also need other tests to rule out medical problems.
These tests can include blood tests to check for signs of diabetes or thyroid problems, allergy tests to see if the problem is caused by a reaction to medication or another product, and a saliva test can measure how well you produce saliva. The more comprehensive tests include a biopsy which is a small piece of tissue taken from your mouth, or a computerized tomography or CT scan, which provides a complete 3-D image. Magnetic resonance imaging or an MRI scan uses magnets and radio waves to create detailed images of your head.
How Can Burning Mouth Syndrome Be Treated?
The treatment recommended for burning mouth syndrome will depend on the cause. For example, if you wear dentures and they are perhaps a little bit old or ill-fitting, your dentist may recommend replacing or adjusting them to help relieve this syndrome. If the problem is caused by a reaction to the products used to fabricate dentures, your dentist might be able to suggest alternative materials that don’t create such a reaction. When burning mouth syndrome is due to diet, you may need to take supplements, or your dentist might suggest you work with a dietician to improve your nutrition.
Fungal infections or other infections can be treated with medications. If you suffer from dry mouth caused by prescription medications, your doctor might be able to change your prescription to something different or can adjust the dosage to help you feel more comfortable and to relieve the side-effects. When this is the case, it’s important to talk to your doctor as you should never stop taking prescription medications without their advice and agreement.
Sometimes antidepressants or counseling may be appropriate, and initially, this might seem extreme. However, the pain caused by burning mouth syndrome can become very wearing, and some people may develop depression because they are continually battling with this level of discomfort. Other therapies that can help include hypnotherapy, yoga, meditation, and relaxation.
Self-Help Therapies for Burning Mouth Syndrome
In addition to professional care, there are some things you can try at home to help ease the symptoms. Make sure you sip water frequently so you are well hydrated and can produce plenty of saliva. Some people find it useful to suck on crushed ice to relieve the pain. Another tactic to help saliva production is chewing sugar-free gum or sucking on sugar-free candies. Try to avoid consuming foods that may irritate your mouth, and which include very spicy or hot foods, or those that are acidic such as fruit and juice. If you use mouthwash, make sure it is alcohol-free because the alcohol can dry out your mouth. It also pays to avoid alcohol products and tobacco.
Often, the exact cause of burning mouth syndrome isn’t apparent, and it’s hard to plan treatment. Trying several different things until you find something that eases the pain can frequently be the best approach. As it can be a long-term condition, it’s essential to find ways of coping with this syndrome and limiting the pain. It can be useful to keep a diary of your symptoms, including how they are affected by different types of treatments. This record could help your dentist or doctor adjust your treatments, so they are better suited to your needs. Everybody is different so it can be a matter of persevering. Don’t give up because there will be something that can help you.