Burning mouth syndrome is a little understood condition which, in the broadest terms, is exactly what it sounds like. A person who is suffering from it experiences a painful burning sensation throughout the mouth, including areas such as the lips, palate and tongue, similar to that which might be felt if the mouth had been scalded by a hot liquid or food. Unlike a case of scalding, however, burning mouth syndrome doesn’t simply heal and calm down after a few days. On the contrary, it is a condition which can afflict sufferers on an almost permanent basis, and because the causes of the syndrome are somewhat mysterious, strategies to successfully treat it can be hard to come by.
Most of the patients attending an orthodontist in Putney or a dental surgery throughout the rest of the UK are doing so with the aim of accessing treatment which is fairly standard and widespread, things such as teeth whitening, veneers, the fitting of braces, etc. A dentist who prides themselves on being aware of all developments in the field of oral health, however, will know precisely what burning mouth syndrome is, what the symptoms are, what the probably causes are and how best to go about treating it.
The main symptom is a burning pain within the mouth, which can range from being moderate to becoming much more severe. The precise details of the pain and how and when it occurs can differ from person to person. For many victims, it starts to take effect in the morning and peaks in severity in the evening, perhaps subsiding somewhat as night falls. For some the pain is constant, while for others it can come and go, and some sufferers report that symptoms fade to a degree when they are eating. Many sufferers can find themselves becoming depressed and anxious due to the burden of living with chronic pain. The fact that there are no visible signs of the syndrome means that it may take a few visits to the dentist before it is positively diagnosed. Another symptom reported by sufferers include metallic or bitter tastes within the mouth, numbness or tingling on the tongue and a feeling of dryness.
As stated previously, the direct causes of burning mouth syndrome have yet to be pinned down, but amongst the factors which may well be responsible are the following:
Changes in a patient’s hormone levels – this may be why the people most likely to be affected are women aged between 50 and 70 who are about to experience, or have already experienced, the menopause.
Dentures which don’t fit properly or an allergic reaction to the material of the dentures
Dry mouth – this is a problem in its’ own right, and one which may well occur as a side effect of certain medication or as part of conditions such as diabetes.
Problems with a patient’s nutritional balance
Damage to the nerves which govern taste and pain
A fungal mouth infection known as oral candidiasis
Problems with acid reflux
Stress related emotional problems such as anxiety or depression
Conditions such as anaemia, vitamin deficiency, diabetes, and thyroid problems
For many patients, burning mouth syndrome may come about due to a combination of several of the above, and in many cases the direct cause can never quite be pinpointed.
Diagnosing burning mouth syndrome will require a combination of a thorough dental check-up and an all-round medical review. Your dentist, working with your doctor, may also take blood tests to check for broader issues such as diabetes or thyroid problems, and to asses nutritional levels and check for any signs of infection.
The treatment for each patient will differ depending upon what has been identified as the factor causing the syndrome. Some of the possible treatments are as follows:
Prescribe health supplements to rebalance any nutritional deficiencies
Changing any medication which might be felt to be causing the syndrome as a side effect
Replacing or modifying dentures which are causing irritation
Treating any broader problem which might be felt to be causing the syndrome – i.e. diabetes or a thyroid condition
Prescribing the correct medication to deal with problems such as stress and anxiety, dry mouth, oral candidiasis and pain caused by damaged nerves.
Although the most severe cases will require some form of professional treatment, there are still steps which the patient can take on their own behalf, and self-help tips for dealing with the discomfort of burning mouth syndrome include:
Using baking soda and water to clean your teeth or dentures
Sipping water on a regular basis and sucking on ice cubes
Avoiding alcohol and tobacco
Avoiding foods which may irritate the tongue, such as those which are hot and spicy or contain high levels of acid, such as citrus fruit or juices
Chewing sugar free gum
Avoiding mouthwash which contains alcohol