Burning mouth syndrome, formally known as glossodynia, is a sensation of burning or tingling in the mouth, sometimes limited to the tongue or just to the lips. The only identifying symptom is the burning pain, and there are a range of causes, including anxiety, poor nutrition, diabetes, and menopause. It is most common in older women.
A burning sensation in the mouth can have other causes than burning mouth syndrome, which is an issue involving nerves in the mouth. For instance, in some people the same feeling is produced by exposure to a chemical called sodium lauryl sulfate, often found in toothpaste. In contrast, burning mouth syndrome is specifically caused by hormonal changes, problems with the pain and taste nerves in the mouth, certain infections, and poor nutrition. In many cases, doctors will simply diagnose and treat the symptom rather than attempting to pinpoint a specific cause.
According to the National Institutes of Health, the burning pain caused by burning mouth syndrome is typically moderate or severe, not mild. Left untreated, it can be constant and continue for months or even years before subsiding. Sometimes burning mouth syndrome also causes tingling or numbness, which, again, can be felt in the lips, just the tongue, or the entire mouth. The Mayo Clinic reports that the same syndrome can cause a range of additional, secondary symptoms. Additional symptoms of burning mouth syndrome include a dry mouth, thirst, a a sore mouth, and altered taste, particularly a lasting metallic or bitter taste in the mouth unrelated to anything you may have eaten. Chronic pain, including from burning mouth syndrome, can also cause or contribute to a state of anxiety or depression.
Each person with burning mouth syndrome may experience a different type of pain. However, the National Institutes of Health have found that the most common course for the condition is a daily cycle. The pain is first felt by late morning. It steadily increases over the afternoon and evening. It then begins to subside again, often disappearing entirely, only to reappear the next morning.
If you believe you may have burning mouth syndrome, you should report the symptoms to your doctor or dentist. The condition can be relieved through several medicines, including antidepressants, anticonvulsants, and benzodiazepines (such as Valium). Your doctor may order a blood test, swab your mouth to search for infections, and perform an allergy test before making a diagnosis.
Colgate. Burning Mouth Syndrome.
Mayo Clinic. Burning Mouth Syndrome.
National Institutes of Health. Burning Mouth Syndrome.