September 01, 2019

Burning mouth

Taming a complex problem

Looking inside your mouth, nothing seems out of order. But for months you've been experiencing a very unpleasant sensation: burning all over your tongue. Though there are a number of possible causes, one is the condition called burning mouth syndrome. About 2% of the population is affected by it.

The burning sensation is often felt on the tip, sides and top of the tongue, roof of the mouth, and the inside of the lips. However, it may occur anywhere in the mouth. It can also cause you to experience a bitter or metallic taste, as well as tingling, stinging or numbness. These symptoms may come and go, increase gradually as the day wears on, or be constant. Some people have the feeling of dry mouth. If you have these symptoms, consider a medical visit to get a definitive diagnosis and rule out other — and in some cases, more serious — causes of mouth discomfort.

Behind the burn

Burning mouth syndrome that can't be linked to an underlying medical condition is referred to as primary burning mouth syndrome. This variety is thought to be caused by damage to the nerves that control pain and taste. On the other hand, if you have secondary burning mouth syndrome, that means your doctor has found an underlying cause of your discomfort. Some of the potential triggers of this syndrome include:

  • Hormonal changes, which can include changes associated with menopause or thyroid disease, or metabolic disorders, such as diabetes.
  • Oral conditions,...