Burning mouth syndrome is a feeling of ongoing pain or burning within your mouth. Often it is extremely difficult to find a cause for this burning sensation. It is thought to be a ‘neuropathic’ pain, where something has changed in the way that the nerves from your mouth are giving messages to your brain or something has altered the way that your brain is interpreting these messages. Burning mouth syndrome most commonly affects middle-aged women.
What will I experience?
As mentioned above, you may experience an ongoing burning sensation or pain within your mouth. It may come and go. Your mouth may look completely normal, even though it feels inflamed. Burning mouth syndrome may be made worse by certain things that cause irritation. For example, these could be spicy or acidic foods.
What causes burning mouth syndrome?
The truth is that we just don’t know. It is thought that there are many possible causes but it can be very hard to diagnose. Here are a few possible causes:
- Stress or anxiety
- Hormone changes (At different times of life, we have different levels of hormone floating around our bodies. Changes in hormones can lead to changes in how your body feels.)
- Nerve damage (Maybe caused by a previous trauma.)
- Medications (Some medications cause you to experience a dry mouth. Without saliva for lubrication, this can leave your mouth sore and uncomfortable.)
- Allergies (Some people will have reactions to products such as toothpaste. Sodium lauryl sulphate (SLS) is a common ingredient that makes toothpaste foam up. However, lots of people can develop a slight reaction to SLS where their mouth and gums feel sore.)
- Oral thrush (If you have a denture or a steroid inhaler for asthma, a burning feeling in your mouth could be caused by thrush, a fungal infection.)
- Dietary deficiencies (Deficiencies in your diet can lead to conditions such as anaemia. Anaemia is a common cause of pain and ulcers within the mouth.)
There are plenty more possible causes for a burning feeling in your mouth and often, there could be more than one cause. As mentioned above, unfortunately it is not always possible to discover what is causing burning mouth syndrome.
How is burning mouth syndrome treated?
If you can find out what is causing the pain, the cause can be treated. For example, you may need to try a toothpaste with different ingredients, maybe avoiding things such as SLS mentioned above. Speaking to your doctor to change any medications that are causing you to experience a dry mouth can be helpful. And treating any infections such as oral thrush will help to eliminate painful symptoms.
It goes without saying that you should try to take care of your teeth and mouth to the best of your ability to avoid disease that affects your teeth and gums. It can be sore to clean your teeth when you have burning mouth syndrome but do your best. If it is too painful to brush, make sure that you avoid sugary and acidic foods which could cause problems such as tooth decay.
If your doctor/dentist cannot diagnose the cause of your burning mouth syndrome, your doctor may need to prescribe you a low dose anti-depressant to help you to manage the pain. Dealing with constant pain can be draining and sometimes these types of medications can be a huge help.
What should I do if I suspect that I have burning mouth syndrome?
Visit your dentist and explain your concerns. Your dentist is the best qualified person to assess your mouth and look for any obvious causes to your pain. If everything dental is ruled out and your mouth appears healthy, you may need to visit your doctor to see if there are any medical factors (such as dietary deficiencies or medications) that are the source of your pain.
With professional help, you will be able to reduce or manage your symptoms to make your mouth as comfortable as possible.