Wednesday, 1 Feb 2023

‘Burning mouth’ syndrome could expose several health conditions

Dr Alex George reveals best time to brush your teeth

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Often medical conditions will display symptoms related to the area of the body affected. But in other cases, the signs could seem entirely unrelated. The mouth is one part of the body that can showcase symptoms of issues you might not expect.

Burning mouth syndrome is an example of this. It refers to ongoing or recurrent burning in the mouth that doesn’t have an obvious cause.

The Mayo Clinic explains: “This discomfort may affect the tongue, gums, lips, inside of your cheeks, roof of your mouth (palate) or widespread areas of your whole mouth.

“The burning sensation can be severe, as if you scalded your mouth.

“Burning mouth syndrome usually appears suddenly, but it can develop gradually over time.

“Unfortunately, the specific cause often can’t be determined. Although that makes treatment more challenging, working closely with your health care team can help you reduce symptoms.”

The symptoms can include:

  • A burning or scalding sensation that most commonly affects your tongue, but may also affect your lips, gums, palate, throat or whole mouth
  • A sensation of dry mouth with increased thirst
  • Taste changes in your mouth, such as a bitter or metallic taste
  • Loss of taste
  • Tingling, stinging or numbness in your mouth.

Some people might experience the symptoms throughout the day, whereas others might notice it “come and go”, and it could last from months to years.

What is burning mouth syndrome caused by?

In some cases burning mouth syndrome is thought to be caused by issues with taste and sensory nerves of the peripheral or central nervous system – this is known as primary burning mouth syndrome.

However, secondary burning mouth syndrome is caused by any one of a number of underlying health conditions as listed below by the Mayo Clinic.

Dry mouth (xerostomia) – This can be the result of some medications, health problems, issues with salivary gland function or cancer treatment.

Other oral conditions – Oral thrush, oral lichen planus or geographic tongue could be to blame.

Nutritional deficiencies – Including a lack of iron, zinc, vitamin B9, vitamin B1, vitamin B2, vitamin B6 and vitamin B12.

Allergies – Or reactions to food and other substances.

Reflux of stomach acid – Also known as gastroesophageal reflux disease.

Medications – High blood pressure medications are culprits, for example.

Oral habits – Like tongue thrusting, biting the tip of the tongue and teeth grinding (bruxism).

Endocrine disorders – These include diabetes or underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism).

Excessive mouth irritation – This could be the result of overbrushing your tongue, abrasive toothpastes, overusing mouthwashes or too many acidic drinks.

Mental health – Anxiety, depression or stress could be causing the issue.

The clinic adds: “If you have discomfort, burning or soreness of your tongue, lips, gums or other areas of your mouth, see your doctor or dentist.”

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