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Genetic and Rare Diseases Information Center (GARD)

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Burning mouth syndrome

*


* Not a rare disease
Other Names for this Disease
  • BMS
  • Burning mouth disorder
  • Stomatodynia
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Your Question

I am looking for any information on treatments and causes for burning mouth syndrome.

Our Answer

We have identified the following information that we hope you find helpful. If you still have questions, please contact us.

What is burning mouth syndrome?

Burning mouth syndrome is characterized by long-lasting burning sensations of the mouth. The pain may affect the tongue, lips, palate, or throughout the mouth. Allergies, nerve damage, irritation, stress, among other things can cause burning mouth syndrome, however in many cases the underlying cause can not be identified.[1][2] The condition may respond to interventions and treatments, may resolve spontaneously, or may persist for months to years. 
Last updated: 11/12/2010

What are the symptoms of burning mouth syndrome?

Symptoms of burning mouth syndrome include severe burning in the mouth which may persist or come and go over the course of months to years.  For some, 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 burning mouth syndrome include tingling or numbness on the tip of the tongue or in the mouth, bitter or metallic changes in taste, and dry or sore mouth.[1]
Last updated: 11/12/2010

What causes burning mouth syndrome?

Burning mouth syndrome can be caused by damage to the nerves that control pain and taste, hormonal changes, dry mouth, nutritional deficiencies (e.g., lack of iron, zinc, folic acid, thiamin, riboflavin, pyridoxine, and cobalamin), food allergies, certain medicines (e.g., ACE inhibitors), oral candidiasis, acid reflux, hypothyroidism, diabetes, allergies to dental materials, poorly-fitting dentures, tooth grinding or tongue thrusting, anxiety or depression, or mouth irritation (e.g., from acidic drinks or overbrushing). In addition, some research studies suggest that other factors such as upper respiratory tract infection, hypothyroidism, as well as being a "supertaster" may increase a persons risk for burning mouth syndrome.[1][2]  Supertasters have a dense consentration of taste buds on the tip of their tongue resulting in a heightend sense of taste.  

For many people, the underlying cause of burning mouth syndrome can not be identified.[1][2]

Last updated: 11/12/2010

How might burning mouth syndrome be treated?

If the underlying cause of burning mouth syndrome is determined, treatment is aimed at the triggering factor(s). If no cause can be found, treatment can be challenging. The following are potential therapies for burning mouth syndrome; we strongly recommend that you work with your health care provider in determining which therapy is right for you.[1][2]  

A lozenge-type form of the anticonvulsant medication clonazepam (Klonopin)
Alpha-lipoic acid (antioxidant)
Oral thrush medications
Certain antidepressants
B vitamins
Cognitive behavioral therapy
Special oral rinses or mouth washes
Saliva replacement products 
Capsaicin

In addition to these medications, the following measures may be helpful in reducing symptoms of burning mouth syndrome:[1][2]

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, as well as cinnamon or mint.
Chew sugarless gum.
Brush your teeth/dentures with baking soda and water, or try different toothpaste.
Avoid alcohol and tobacco products.
Take steps to reduce excessive stress.

Last updated: 11/12/2010

Are there clinical trials involving burning mouth syndrome?

Yes. The U.S. National Institutes of Health, through the National Library of Medicine, developed ClinicalTrials.gov to provide patients, family members, and members of the public with current information on clinical research studies. Currently, clinical trials are identified as enrolling individuals with burning mouth syndrome. To find these trials, click on the link above and use "burning mouth syndrome" as your search term. After you click on a study, review its "eligibility" criteria to determine its appropriateness. Use the study’s contact information to learn more. Check this site often for regular updates.

You can also contact the Patient Recruitment and Public Liaison (PRPL) Office at the National Institutes of Health (NIH). We recommend calling the toll-free number listed below to speak with a specialist, who can help you determine if you are eligible for any clinical trials.   If you are located outside the United States, and would like to be contacted via telephone, you will need to provide your telephone number in full, including area code and international dialing prefix.

Patient Recruitment and Public Liaison Office
NIH Clinical Center
Bethesda, Maryland 20892-2655
Toll-free: 800-411-1222
Fax: 301-480-9793
Email: prpl@mail.cc.nih.gov
Web site:  http://clinicalcenter.nih.gov/

If you are interested in enrolling in a clinical trial, you can find helpful general information on clinical trials at the following ClinicalTrials.gov Web page.
http://clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/info/understand

A tutorial about clinical trials that can also help answer your questions can be found at the following link from the National Library of Medicine:
http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/tutorials/cancerclinicaltrials/htm/lesson.htm

Resources on many charitable or special-fare flights to research and treatment sites and low-cost hospitality accommodations for outpatients and family members, as well as ambulance services, are listed on the Web site of the Office of Rare Diseases Research (ORDR), part of the National Institutes of Health.
http://rarediseases.info.nih.gov/Resources.aspx?PageID=8

Last updated: 11/3/2009

References