Burning Mouth Syndrome 

written by Lex Koch, a pharmacy student at Belmont University 

 

What is burning mouth syndrome?  

Burning mouth syndrome (BMS), otherwise known as glossodynia, is a rare condition characterized by a burning or tingling sensation affecting the tongue, roof of the mouth, gums, inner cheeks, and throat, with no apparent cause. It comes on suddenly and can last hours to days. Other symptoms may include dry mouth, increased thirst, loss of taste, or a bitter or metallic taste. 

General Information 

What causes BMS?  

Primary BMS is not associated with an underlying medical condition and its cause is unknown.  Experts believe that primary BMS results from damage to the nerves controlling taste and pain. Seconary BMS is thought to be caused by an underlying medical condition. Common conditions include hormonal changes, metabolic disorders, oral infections, acid reflux, and use of certain medications.

How do I treat BMS?

The treatment of BMS is complex and there is no one treatment for everyone.  Treating the suspected underlying medical condition may relieve symptoms of secondary BMS. Medications suspected to cause BMS may be switched or stopped by the prescribing physician. Treatment focuses on relieving pain and symptoms associated with BMS.  

 

Is there anything I can do at home?  

When experiencing pain, sip on a cold beverage, suck on ice chips, or chew sugarless gum to help soothe the mouth and throat. Avoid foods that may cause irritation, including spicy and highly acidic foods like citrus fruits and certain juices. Also, switching to an alcohol-free mouthwash can help prevent irritation.  

 

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I find out if I have BMS?  

To diagnose BMS, a specialist in oral medicine will review your medical history and examine your mouth. 

 

Does something make me more at risk?  

BMS is more common in older women, particularly menopausal women. According to one study, BMS is seen in 18-33% of postmenopausal women. 

 

Is there a difference between GERD and BMS?  

Per the International Foundation for Gastrointestinal Disorders, tongue and mouth irritations are less common symptoms of GERD. If you’re experiencing a burning sensation on your tongue or in your mouth, it’s probably not caused by acid reflux. 

 

Resources 

Burning mouth syndrome, National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research. Updated April 2019. Accessed July 7, 2021. 

https://www.nidcr.nih.gov/health-info/burning-mouth/more-info#causes 

Vaidya R. Burning mouth syndrome at menopause: Elusive etiology. J Midlife Health. 2012;3(1):3-4. doi:10.4103/0976-7800.98809.  What is burning mouth syndrome? Healthline. Updated May 23, 2017. Accessed July 7, 2021. https://www.healthline.com/health/burning-mouth-syndrome 

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