Burning mouth syndrome


Burning mouth syndrome (BMS) is a medical condition characterized by persistent or recurring sensations of burning in the mouth or throat, with no apparent underlying cause. The discomfort can manifest in any part of the mouth and may resemble the sensation of being scalded by a hot liquid, such as coffee.

Individuals experiencing BMS often note that the burning sensation intensifies as the day progresses. While the mouth may feel normal upon waking, the discomfort tends to worsen later in the day. Interestingly, the pain may alleviate during sleep, only to restart the next day.

Accompanying the burning sensation, many individuals with BMS report a bitter or metallic taste in their mouths. Despite regular saliva flow, a sense of dryness is often experienced. In severe cases, the chronic pain associated with BMS can contribute to feelings of depression and anxiety.


Burning mouth syndrome does not result in any noticeable physical changes to the tongue or mouth. However, it might persist for months or even years, depending on the specific pattern of mouth irritation. Rarely, symptoms may disappear quickly or occur less frequently.

Burning mouth syndrome discomfort varies in pattern. It can occur daily, starting with mild discomfort in the morning and worsening throughout the day, persist all day from the moment of waking, or come and go unpredictably over time.

Symptoms include:

  • A dry mouth sensation accompanied by increased thirst
  • Diminished ability to taste
  • Tingling, stinging, or numbness sensations in the mouth
  • A sensation of burning or scalding, typically impacting the tongue but potentially extending to the lips, gums, roof of the mouth, throat, or the entire oral cavity
  • Changes in taste perception, including the presence of bitter or metallic tastes.

If any of the symptoms persist, consult a healthcare provider for proper diagnosis and treatment, especially in cases where there is a discomfort, burning, or soreness in the tongue, lips, gums, or other oral areas.

Untreated, burning mouth syndrome has the potential to persist for months or even years. Seeking timely medical attention is crucial for addressing and managing this condition.


Primary burning mouth syndrome:

When the cause cannot be identified, the condition is termed primary or idiopathic burning mouth syndrome. Current research suggests that primary burning mouth syndrome may be associated with nerve issues related to taste and pain.

Secondary burning mouth syndrome:

In certain instances, burning mouth syndrome is triggered by an underlying medical condition, leading to what is known as secondary burning mouth syndrome.

Underlying Factors Associated with Secondary Burning Mouth Syndrome:

  • Dry mouth: Resulting from medications, health issues, salivary gland problems, or side effects of cancer treatment.
  • Other oral conditions: Including oral thrush (fungal infection), oral lichen planus (inflammatory condition), or geographic tongue.
  • Nutritional deficiencies: Insufficient intake of iron, zinc, folate (vitamin B-9), thiamin (vitamin B-1), riboflavin (vitamin B-2), pyridoxine (vitamin B-6), and cobalamin (vitamin B-12).
  • Allergies or reactions: To foods, food additives, flavorings, fragrances, dyes, dental materials, or oral care products.
  • Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD): Stomach acid reflux into the mouth.
  • Medication side effects: Especially with certain high blood pressure medications.
  • Oral habits: Such as tongue pushing, tongue biting, teeth grinding, or clenching.
  • Endocrine disorders: Like diabetes or hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid).
  • Irritated mouth: Resulting from excessive tongue brushing, abrasive toothpaste use, overuse of mouthwashes, acidic foods/drinks, or ill-fitting dentures.
  • Psychological factors: Anxiety, depression, or stress.

Risk factors

Burning mouth syndrome is a relatively uncommon condition. It typically manifests suddenly and without a discernible cause. An increased risk of this condition is observed in individuals over the age of 50, females, particularly those in perimenopause or postmenopausal stages, and smokers.

Another contributing factor to the higher likelihood BMS in women is their taste sensitivity. The variations in people’s genetic makeup result in differences in their ability to taste.

Other risk factors include:

  • Food allergies
  • Emotional stress or tension
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Recent sickness
  • Certain chronic health conditions like fibromyalgia, Parkinson’s disease, autoimmune disorders, and neuropathy
  • Past dental procedures
  • Traumatic life experiences
  • Specific medications