What is Burning Mouth Syndrome?
What is Burning Mouth Syndrome?
Written by Tricia Ellis-Christensen

Burning mouth syndrome is an unusual condition that sometimes mystifies doctors and can be very frustrating and difficult for those affected. It can also be called burning lips or burning tongue. Scientific names for the condition include stomatodynia and glossodynia.

Symptoms of burning mouth syndrome may affect various parts of the mouth or the whole mouth. Areas affected can include the lips, tongue, palate, and/or throat and these may all exhibit a burning pain. The mouth can feel very dry, and may have a slight metallic taste. Some people lose all or part of their sense of taste. Other symptoms can include pain that worsens as the day progresses, pain especially at the tip of the tongue, and extra thirst. The condition can last for years but be characterized by periods of remission.

Cause can be hard to pinpoint but may result from dry mouth, as might be caused by taking certain medications regularly, nutritional deficits, low thyroid or other hormonal disorders, over brushing and sometimes by yeast infections. Occasionally conditions like depression or anxiety create burning mouth syndrome. When an underlying condition is the cause burning mouth syndrome is called secondary, but when no underlying conditions are found responsible it may be called primary burning mouth syndrome.

Diagnosis is usually made by looking for underlying causes, but there isn’t a single test to determine if the syndrome exists. Rather, doctors and dentists may diagnose the condition by process of elimination. Treatment for the condition will vary depending on cause and could include various medications or treatments for underlying conditions, which may resolve the problem. When no cause can be found, other drug treatments may be attempted to alleviate pain.

Though mouth pain wouldn’t seem like a debilitating condition, burning mouth syndrome that doesn’t improve with various treatments can be. People often benefit from support through pain management groups, and may additionally be helped by trying to lead as normal a life as possible and by engaging in stress relieving activities like tai chi chuan or yoga. Some people are helped by treatments and lead very normal, unimpaired lives.

It’s difficult to determine if there are any risk factors for burning mouth syndrome since the condition can result from so many things. People who have extra tastebuds and are called super tasters because their sense of taste is so acute may be slightly more at risk. No risks are exactly preventable, except tobacco use, which may greatly affect the mouth in a variety of ways.

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