Amanda Phoon Nguyen
For Patients: Why Does my Mouth Burn?
Updated: Aug 27, 2020
There are many possible reasons for a burning sensation in your mouth, and seeing a qualified professional such as an oral medicine specialist is important in order to reach the right diagnosis. Because there are so many possible reasons for oral burning, other investigations are needed to rule out possible conditions, and rule out any contributing factors.
If you have googled “oral burning”, chances are that you would have come across a condition known as “burning mouth syndrome”. Burning mouth syndrome (BMS) is not actually a syndrome, but a condition that mostly presents with burning pain in the tongue or other oral mucous membranes.
It is associated with normal signs and laboratory findings. What this is otherwise known as is a “diagnosis of exclusion”, which means you do not have another condition known to cause oral burning. In a practical sense, this is sometimes called primary BMS (idiopathic- meaning we don’t know why the burning has occurred) and secondary (oral burning can be explained by a clinical cause). It is also important to note that the burning often has associated symptoms including subjective dryness of the mouth, paraesthesia and altered taste. This is part of the reason why BMS is increasingly called “oral dysaesthesia”, to encompass the range of the various signs and symptoms.
Besides BMS, some factors that may be associated with oral burning include: •Infective conditions such as oral candidosis •Traumatic cause such as damage to tongue papillae. This may be because of mucosal disease, damage secondary to salivary gland hypofunction (such as radiotherapy, saliva problems, eating disorders, gastro oesoohageal reflux and dehydration) •Secondary to salivary gland disorders or immune mediated conditions affecting the salivary glands such as Sjogren’s •Oral mucosal diseases such as oral lichen planus •Metabolic issues such as nutritional deficiencies, diabetes, thyroid problems or hormone changes •Medication related adverse effect. Many medications have oral burning as a potential side effect •Allergies including reaction to dental materials or dentures •Oral galvanism •Systemic haematinic disorders including vitamin B, iron or folate deficiency •Central nervous system disorders including multiple sclerosis or Parkinson’s disease
As you can see, the diagnosis of BMS is not always straightforward, and that is why is important to see someone familiar with the condition. Management for BMS may include topical or systemic medication. Other management strategies including the use of alpha lipoic acid, low level laser therapy and capsaicin mouthwashes. If you have oral burning, fret not, as a qualified oral medicine specialist can help you investigate the condition and present management options.