What Is Burning Mouth Syndrome?
If you're reading this, chances are you have burning mouth syndrome, or I've perked your interest. It is a syndrome that has no exact answers. In fact, I cannot find any studies on this phenomenon, either. But, boy, there are many people seeking answers!
Okay, so what is burning mouth syndrome (BMS)? I've had BMS for two years now, and the best way I can describe it is that it's a burning or scalding sensation on my tongue, in my mouth, and sometimes around my teeth/gums and lips.
It feels exactly like you burned your mouth on a hot cup of coffee, only the sensation never goes away! It definitely travels around all those areas. Rarely do all the areas burn at the same time . . . thank goodness! Mostly it's just my tongue; however, other times it may be the roof of my mouth, and it will travel to my lips. It seems to build in sensation as the day goes on, with the nighttime being the worst.
I have been in many chat rooms around this subject and have seen family doctors and specialists also. What I do know is there is no immediate and absolute cure, and no one agrees on what causes it. Confusing, huh?
I will share with you what I have found out, and hopefully, this can help you.
It's Not Thrush
BMS is often confused at first with oral thrush because the symptoms can be similar. Thrush can produce a tingling or burning effect on the tongue. However, the difference is thrush will coat the tongue with a white "fungus" that can cause bleeding and pain when you try to scrape it off.
Antibiotics are often prescribed to cure thrush. BMS does not have any physical signs quite like that. Sometimes the tongue can look "blotchy" . . . but other than that, there are no visible signs.
Unless you tell someone you have BMS, no one will ever know by just looking at you.
A Million Questions Ran Through My Mind
After being told that I probably have BMS, my mind went in all different directions! My thoughts were:
- Is it harmful?
- Can it be cancer?
- How long will I have it?
- Can it be cured?
- How did I even get it?
- Can it give me bad breath?
- Can I pass it to someone else that I kiss?
The list could go on, but you get the drift!
Should You See A Doctor and Which One?
Yes, go see a doctor. I did.
I started with my family physician. My tongue did have a blotchy look to it, so he prescribed Diflucan, a common antibiotic used to cure yeast infections. It was determined I probably had thrush. However, after being on Diflucan for three months with no change to my tongue, he ruled that I did not, in fact, have thrush. At that point, he really had no answers for me.
Next, I made a visit to my ENT doctor. She was a wealth of information! She took one look at my tongue, asked me a long list of questions, and determined I had a "little-known syndrome" called burning tongue syndrome. She said it is a condition in which there is a burning sensation on the tongue. When it travels around the mouth, it is called BMS.
She prescribed a medicine called Acyclovir along with a mouth rinse consisting of Milk of Magnesia mixed with other "calming" ingredients. Acyclovir is used for viruses that live within the body like Herpes. Even though I do not have the herpes virus, she said that while this will not cure the problem, it often helps people with the symptoms and makes it more manageable.
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I took the medication for 3 months. I will say it did lessen the pain, but it did not completely take away the symptoms. I have since stopped taking that medication. As far as the mouth rinse went, I felt it did nothing.
I have since been using Biotene toothpaste and mouth rinse for dry mouth, and that does seem to help on really bad days.
Possible Causes of BMS
Like me, you are probably wondering what the heck causes BMS! This is where the grey area is. No two doctors can agree on why someone gets BMS. However, I will list some of the reasons cited:
- Dental work: Some people have experienced BMS after trauma to the mouth or having lots of dental work done i.e. Root canals, dentures, and surgery
- Psychosomatic: It's maybe caused or aggravated by a mental factor. Not a big fan of this one, but that thought is out there!
- Stress: Stress can play havoc with your system and manifests itself in crazy ways! Stress from the death of a loved one, losing one's job, divorce, a sick child....is just to name a few reasons that could be very stressful.
- Medications/dry mouth: It is thought that dry mouth and medications like those prescribed for depression, anxiety, stress, seizures, etc, can cause the burning sensation. Some people have felt some relief from the burning after they've stopped taking the medications. (Do not stop taking any medications unless you've talked to your doctor!)
- Acid reflux: The thought here is the acid that causes a burning pain in your chest and esophagus may also cause the burning in your mouth.
- Hormonal: There Seems that there is a significant amount of middle-aged women and menopausal women who have this syndrome. The thinking is hormones are changing and can cause unusual symptoms.
The list is longer, but these are the reason's being talked about the most in chat rooms and the ones that have come up during my conversations with different experts.
Overcoming or Managing the Pain
I've already mentioned a few ways to help with the pain like the prescribed medications and mouth rinses, however there are other ways to consider:
- Meditation: This is a way to calm your entire being....mental and physical. I have found that taking the time to listen to my body and give it what it needs to heal has been beneficial in relieving my pain. Meditation is one of the best ways to reduce stress. If you have not had any mouth trauma due to injury or dental work, chances are you are probably undergoing a lot of stress in your life. The mouth Chakra is where communication, truth and understanding come from. Find your truths and balance your body to help align the healing process.
- Neuro Emotional Technique (N.E.T.): This is a mind-body stress reduction technique that is done by a certified N.E.T. practitioner. This can help resolve any conflicts that are buried in your subconscious that may be causing stress that is manifesting itself in the form BMS.
- Vitamins: Specifically the B-complex vitamin which promotes overall good health may be a good place for you to start.
- Capsaicin: Fight fire with fire! This is a pain reliever derived from hot peppers. It may help.
BMS is not fatal, it is not contagious and it can be managed. The important thing to remember is that the pain does diminish with time and can disappear without warning...just as it appeared!
The range for how long it can last: a few months to many years. I know that sounds crazy, but I really can't believe I've been living with it for almost 2 years! Keep a positive attitude and allow your body to heal itself! It seems to me the less I focus on it, the less I feel it.
Good luck in your healing!
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.
Questions & Answers
Question: Has your burning mouth syndrome gotten any better?
Answer: Short answer: I no longer have burning mouth syndrome. However, I have put a lot of energy into my diet. I eat organic foods. I do not eat any processed foods or fast food. I eat mostly a raw diet that does not include eggs, dairy or gluten. A few times a week I will indulge in meat, no more than 6 oz. I drink water and I juice. Fruit sugar is NOT the same as processed sugar, so I believe no one should cut it out of their diet. Food is medicine. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise. I wish you well. It is not easy living with this. Hopefully in your journey you will find healing.
Lorraine on June 27, 2019:
twocupswithtee (author) from Chesterfield, MI on May 21, 2019:
I wish you well. I just posted another response to a question that came through. You can read that.
Karen on May 17, 2019:
I too have had BMS for over 2 years.
I would live to talk to other women for support.
Alexandra Cuthbert on September 18, 2017:
Burning Mouth Syndrome Herbal Treatment depends on the underlying causes. Herbal Treatments are also available to release the symptoms of burning mouth syndrome.
Rebecca on September 27, 2015:
Thank you for posting. I am at step 1 and have seen my family doctor who prescribed magic mouth wash. The burning comes back. I have had dental work a few times in the past year and do not feel this is yeast. I am also highly stressed. It is stressful to have this period.
nici72 on September 01, 2014:
i so love this article and your comments....i have had bms for 6months and have found it so disturbing....i agree that alot is due to stress.....i have had so many tests and seen specialists.. i have a hiactus hernia and they have thought it was the cause, i have taken omoprazolo and other with no result. i have been prescribed xanax but i just don't want to take it....i am sure just as it came to me it will leave me....i have seen a kinsiologist (sorry for my spelling!) i have taken certain foods out of my diet as she said that my body was intoxicated! said that it may take a long time to see results so i am perservering.....then on saturday i'm seeing a doctor who practices natural alternatives(homeotherapy) has been highly recommended to me and hope he can help with the state of my mind too!!!!!! i am starting to do relaxation techniques too..... Thankyou again for publishing this fantastic article that has just given me hope that i'm not crazy and maybe i am going down the right road!
Marisa on August 30, 2014:
Ummm... My symptoms really have not changed but I'm really excited for you that yours have almost completely gone away! That's fantastic.
twocupswithtee (author) from Chesterfield, MI on August 05, 2014:
Hi Marisa. You're right it's has been a while! I started my new job and I'm finally settling down. My burning mouth had come back during all the craziness of job changes, but now I haven't had any burning at all! It only seems to flare up now when I have higher levels of stress.
Has your symptoms lessened?
Marisa on August 01, 2014:
How are you feeling? It's been awhile since we last talked.
twocupswithtee (author) from Chesterfield, MI on May 04, 2014:
Hi Marisa, Back in October of 2010 is when I started experiencing the sensation of my tongue burning. That's how it started out for me. Over the next 6 months the BMS started "traveling" all over my mouth. From about that 6 months mark and for another 2 and a half years BMS was always present except when I slept. I have nothing to compare it to, but it "burned" bad. It traveled to my teeth and lips. My teeth and lips literally would throb and I would push on my teeth thinking that would stop the pain. I remember thinking that this was the craziest thing EVER! Chewing gum, as I mentioned before, was the single most effective thing I could do daily. I went through a lot of sugarless mint gum.
Now the burning flares up only occasionally. I could not tell you why it stopped burning all the time. The flare up now only happen when I'm not being "truthful" to myself or I feel a lot of stress. And when it does happen, it's only for a short period, like hours instead of..well...forever. LOL. I never became depressed about it. For me it was a challenge. A mystery to be conquered. I read about it. I tried lots of different remedies that I read about. In the end I think, it was about NOT letting it control my life. The less I thought about it, the less I noticed it. It was a long road....3 years, but I know more about myself than I ever have. Some blessings are like that.
So that's the thing about this syndrome. No concrete answers. No Cure. If you want to talk about it, I can always give you my email. :)
Marisa on May 03, 2014:
Sorry forgot to ask... Are you still almost symptom free?
Marisa on May 03, 2014:
Thanks so much for your response! Are your symptoms still very bad? I can't think of a whole lot that has changed in my life except that work was super stressful this year. I have two adorable babies 6 and 4 and although they keep me going it's not stressful because my husband is always there to help. I don't know??? I suppose it could be work related. I tried to do it the natural way but I became very depressed and down. So I figured I needed to be the best mommy and wife I could be so I chose the meds for now... I keep telling myself that nothing is forever. How are your symptoms since the start of all of this? Do you have bad days? What would you say is the one thing that helps you the most?
twocupswithtee (author) from Chesterfield, MI on May 02, 2014:
My thought is they are treating your BMS as triggered by stress, hense the medications you are on. I am not a doctor or a medical advisor. I am someone who has had this condition for 3 and a half years now. I chose to handle it with natural means, i.e. vitamins, balanced diet, meditation and yoga/exercise. I also keep a very positive outlook in all that I do. I am a firm believer that when something feels wrong, it's the body's way of letting it know something is not in balance. Having said that, I would say to keep up with the meditation. It takes time and practice to really learn the art of meditation, but even 10 minutes a day will help balance the body. Do a bit of research as to what you think may have changed in your life and tackle it from that perspective. I'm thinking like new stresses, hormonal changes, surgerys etc.
I'll leave you with the one simple thing that helps me tremendously with the burning: I chew mint gum. It soothes my mouth and I think it distracts me from thinking about the burning sensation. I hope this helps you. Thanks!
Marisa on May 01, 2014:
Thank you for this article. I am 35 and have had this since Christmas. Ugh!!! I am taking cymbalta and gabipentin but lowest dose of each. It helps but sometimes I notice my nose and eyes burning. I have gone to accupuncture and massage they have helped but I am trying meditation now as well. Do you have any other tips that could be useful?
twocupswithtee (author) from Chesterfield, MI on February 14, 2014:
Hi Carol! 35 years is a long time. Interesting about the clonazapam prescription. You are so right about BMS not burning while You sleep. In fact that was the only time it didn't burn for me. Over the last 6 months I've been virtually free of the syndrome. I couldn't tell you exactly what made the difference but I can say this.
1. I stopped scrapping my tongue like a maniac. I only do it once every other day.
2. I practice meditation almost every day. After going through my divorce and making sure my kids had the support they needed I knew my stress level was high and I carried that stress in my mouth. I clenched jaw..I was grinding my teeth and holding my lips tightly together. Meditation has helped me immensely in relaxing that area.
3. I try to take my vitamins. I try to eat right but I often miss meals so the vitamins help keep my body balanced.
I hope your BMS eventually subsides. My heart goes out to you.
Carol on February 10, 2014:
I have been suffering with burning mouth syndrome for about 35 years.
No cue available. Only thing that helps is clonazapam prescribed by my medical doctor. Also suggested by my dentist once. BMS never keeps me awake. Which is a god send
twocupswithtee (author) from Chesterfield, MI on August 27, 2012:
Please feel free to let me know if this was useful information to you! If it was not useful can you please let me know how I can make it better? I really appreciate any feedback and Thank You for reading my hub!