Burning Mouth Syndrome (Yes, It's Real)
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 2 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 on 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 when tried to scrape off can cause bleeding and pain. See photo to the right. Antibiotics are often prescribed to cure thrush. BMS does not have any physical signs quite like that. Sometimes the tongue can look "blotchy".... 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.
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 3 months and no change to my tongue, he ruled that I did not in fact have Thrush and he really at that point 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 where there is a burning sensation to 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. The 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. 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 the 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 all in your head. 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 Disease: 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: Seems that there is a significant amount of middle aged woman and menopausal woman 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 here are other way 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 the 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 comes from. Find your truths and balance your body to help align the healing process.
Neuro Emotional Technique or 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! 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!