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Burning Mouth Syndrome


Submitted by Emil Verban, DDS, McLean County Dental

Burning mouth syndrome (BMS) is a painful, frustrating condition often described as a scalding sensation in the tongue, lips, palate, or throughout the mouth. Although BMS can affect anyone, it occurs most commonly in middle-aged or older women. Unfortunately, we don’t really know what causes Burning Mouth Syndrome, but it often occurs with a range of other medical and dental conditions, from nutritional deficiencies and menopause to dry mouth and allergies.

Moderate to severe burning in the mouth is the main symptom of BMS and can persist for months or years. For many people, the burning sensation begins in late morning, builds to a peak by evening, and often subsides at night. Some feel constant pain; for others, pain comes and goes. Anxiety and depression are common in people with burning mouth syndrome and may result from their chronic pain.

Other symptoms of BMS include the following:

  • tingling or numbness on the tip of the tongue or in the mouth
  • bitter or metallic changes in taste
  • dry or sore mouth


There are many possible causes of burning mouth syndrome, including the following:

  • damage to nerves that control pain and taste
  • hormonal changes
  • dry mouth, which can be caused by many medicines and disorders such as Sjögren’s syndrome or diabetes
  • nutritional deficiencies
  • oral candidiasis, a fungal infection in the mouth
  • acid reflux
  • poorly-fitting dentures or allergies to denture materials
  • anxiety and depression

In some people, burning mouth syndrome may have more than one cause, but for many, the exact cause of their symptoms cannot be found.

A review of your medical history, a thorough oral examination, and a general medical examination may help identify the source of your burning mouth. Tests may include the following:

  • blood work to look for infection, nutritional deficiencies, and disorders associated with BMS such as diabetes or thyroid problems
  • oral swab to check for oral candidiasis
  • allergy testing for denture materials, certain foods, or other substances that may be causing your symptoms

Treatment should be tailored to your individual needs. Because it is difficult to determine the exact cause, it may be necessary to try a variety of treatments. Possible treatments may include the following:

  • adjusting or replacing irritating dentures
  • treating existing disorders such as diabetes, Sjögren’s syndrome, or a thyroid problem to improve burning mouth symptoms
  • recommending supplements for nutritional deficiencies
  • switching medicine, where possible, if a drug you are taking is causing your burning mouth
  • prescribing medications for the following purposes:
  • relieve dry mouth
  • treat oral candidiasis
  • help control pain from nerve damage
  • relieve anxiety and depression

When no underlying cause can be found, treatment is aimed at the symptoms to try to reduce the pain associated with burning mouth syndrome.

Helpful Tips
You can also try these self-care tips to help ease the pain of burning mouth syndrome.

  • Sip water frequently.
  • Suck on ice chips.
  • Avoid irritating substances like hot, spicy foods, mouthwashes that contain alcohol, and products high in acid, like citrus fruits and juices
  • Chew sugarless gum.
  • Brush your teeth/dentures with baking soda and water
  • Avoid alcohol and tobacco products

Be sure to consult your dentist and physician about other possible steps you can take to minimize the problems associated with burning mouth syndrome.

For more information, you may contact Emil Verban, Jr., DDS at 309-662-8448 or visit McLean County Dental is located at 2103 E. Washington Street in Bloomington. Dr. Verban’s education, training, and experience provide his patients both general dentistry expertise and the ability to provide specialized services such as dental implants.

Information for this article is from the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research