We all know the painful feeling of scalding our tongue on a hot drink or bowl of soup. But what if that feeling never goes?
Burning Mouth Syndrome (BMS) is a quite common but little-known condition that is not life-threatening, but which sufferers say makes their ‘life a misery’.
Simply talking, eating hot or spicy food, like curry, and stress can all make it worse and there’s currently no known cure.
It can take years before the condition eases or disappears, so sufferers have to develop coping mechanisms to deal with the pain, which might include relaxation techniques such as yoga and meditation.
What is Burning Mouth Syndrome?
Sometimes also known as glossodynia, glossopyrosis, stomatodynia and oral dysaesthesia, BMS affects up to 15% of people and is more common in women than men – particularly women who are going through menopause.
While the burning pain or hot sensation can be felt just on the tongue or lips, it can also be more widespread throughout the mouth.
Other symptoms may include numbness, dryness and an unpleasant taste – and they can either be constant or come and go, according to the Department of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery and Orthodontics at Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.
What causes Burning Mouth Syndrome?
The exact causes are unknown: some people have reported developing the condition after dentistry work, a throat infection or taking medication.
Studies suggest the pain is ‘neuropathic’, caused by nerves in the mouth malfunctioning – the way the tongue sends taste and sensations of warm and cold to the brain changes, resulting in pain.
What can be done about Burning Mouth Syndrome?
When you go to see your GP, they can refer you to the Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery and Orthodontics department of a nearby hospital.
Swabs will be done to rule out underlying conditions, such as a candidal (fungal) infection and your blood will be tested for levels of iron, vitamin B12, folic acid and glucose.
The Department of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery and Orthodontics at Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust advises:
“Living with ongoing physical symptoms is a challenge, but those people who do best, develop ways of making sure they continue to do things they enjoy as much as possible. This sometimes means actively challenging thoughts such as, ‘Having a meal is not the same as it used to be.’
“If the symptoms are causing you to stop doing things and you feel low, see your GP, who can refer you to a psychologist.”
What else will help ease the pain?
The burning sensation often feels worse when it’s accompanied by dryness, so it’s recommended that you drink plenty of plain water and chew gum to keep your mouth moist.
Avoid eating and drinking things that irritate your mouth, including fizzy drinks, alcohol, spicy and acidic foods, such as tomatoes and citrus fruit.
Finding a way to relax, such as doing yoga or meditation can also help you manage the pain.