Oral health is perpetually sidelined as a person gets engaged in other parts of life while growing up. Visits to the dentists are comparatively done more often by children under the age of 15 for minor conditions.
For people older than that, usually serious conditions and symptoms serve as the reason behind any dental appointments. One of such situations includes serious burning sensations in the mouth with excruciating pain.
A condition called the Burning mouth syndrome has been becoming increasingly common, especially in adults who cross the age of 25.
In this syndrome, a piercing pain in the mouth is experienced along with burning sensations in one or more areas including the gums, teeth, and tongue. In some cases, isolated burning or pain has been observed as well.
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The intensity of pain can vary from person to person. For some, the pain can build up with the passage of time to an unbearable amount. Others can simply start feeling mild or extreme pain at any time of the day.
What is the Burning mouth syndrome?
The diagnosis of the syndrome is deemed hard because of the fact that no single test or way can guarantee to show the symptoms. It can be very hard at times to distinguish between burning mouth syndrome and other oral diseases, attacks and allergies.
According to the American Journal of Oral Medicine, about 5% of the American adults suffer from burning mouth syndrome and that too, for a lifetime in the majority of the cases.
Statistically, the number of patients with the syndrome has been rising because of the increase in underlying diseases that trigger it.
Another research has shown that most of the times a person is suffering from the burning mouth syndrome, the diagnosis is done much later especially in one of the two types because of the confusing symptoms.
The burning mouth syndrome has been classified on the basis of two types of diagnosis in patients:
Primary burning mouth syndrome
Burning and pain in the mouth are often linked to a variety of different diseases. Upon seeking professional help from a doctor, a person is most likely to get a number of tests to determine what is causing the sensations in the mouth.
Some of these tests include a blood test, allergies test, oral swab and salivary flow test. In primary burning mouth syndrome, a doctor is typically unable to find any underlying diseases or allergies that can serve as a reason behind the burning.
Hence, this particular type of burning mouth syndrome is far more difficult to detect and treat than the other. Many times, it is hard to conclude whether another condition in a person is not causing the syndrome.
In case the doctor reaches the conclusion of no identifiable underlying cause, the condition of the person is declared as primary burning mouth syndrome. There have been various studies on this type of BMS but most of them have failed to agree upon similar causations of it.
Secondary burning mouth syndrome
The tests recommended to a person with a primary burning mouth syndrome are the same as secondary as at that stage a doctor is unable to finalize the type. For people with secondary BMS, the underlying cause is identified from one of these tests.
The most common reasons in secondary BMS cases are minor in most of the patients. For example, most of the doctors are successfully able to detect nutritional deficiencies such as iron, zinc and B complex vitamins deficiency that seems to be causing the syndrome.
Other prevalent reasons include dry mouth, allergies, acid reflux, hormonal changes and certain medication taken by the person. The diagnosis and treatment of secondary burning mouth syndrome are comparatively easier.
For secondary BMS patients, the doctors or physicians are likely to concentrate on treating the condition that existed prior to BMS and triggered it. The aforementioned reasons are easily treated with conventional medication and prevention.
Primary BMS in comparison requires a good amount of time in figuring out the treatment and prevention methods as the cause is not identifiable.
What are the symptoms of burning mouth syndrome?
Burning mouth syndrome comes with an uncomfortable feeling in the upper mouth, teeth, tongue and sometimes even the throat with a burning sensation that worsens day by day if it is neglected.
The symptoms of both primary and secondary syndrome are the same even though the causation and diagnosis differ.
Some of the observable symptoms of burning mouth syndrome include:
- Pain (which usually spreads with time)
- Dry mouth
- Burning feeling in the mouth in one or more parts of the mouth and throat (resembles the sensation felt after getting scaling)
- Loss of taste
- Continuous thirst (usually in cases of burning in throat)
- Metallic taste (which is hard to get rid of even if the teeth are brushed)
- Changes in taste throughout the day
Who is at greater risk of burning mouth syndrome?
The chances of burning mouth syndrome are increased naturally in people who suffer from specific conditions than others including mental health diseases. The syndrome is more likely to be seen in people suffering from the following:
- Sjogren’s syndrome
- Diabetes (type 2 usually but can happen in type 1 as well)
- Nutritional deficiencies
- Infections in the mouth
- Acid reflux
- Environmental factors
- Allergies (to foods, food coloring, any substance in your food or oral hygiene product and fragrances)
- Radiation therapy
- Thyroid regulation problem
- Unfit or damaged dentures
In addition, various studies have shown conditions except the ones mentioned above that have caused burning mouth syndrome. Statistically, women are generally more likely to experience this syndrome in form of both types than men.
The reason behind that is Iron and Vitamin B3 deficiency in younger women. In older women, hormonal changes are the biggest contributor to the burning mouth syndrome.
This can happen both in menopausal women as well as the ones who have not had it yet, where the number of former is higher than the latter.
This can be explained by the effects of menopause on bodies. Hormonal imbalances and fluctuations increase as women are nearer to experiencing menopause. One of the effects of these can be BMS.
Secondly, the drop in estrogen level can disturb the production of saliva in the mouth, which is why a metallic taste is experienced when having both secondary and primary BMS.
This is also why menopausal women may feel greater sensitivity and pain in the mouth compared to other patients.
What are the treatment options?
As mentioned earlier, the treatment of both types of BMS can vary according to the doctor’s diagnosis. For secondary burning mouth syndrome, the causation is treated effectively through conventional medication or discontinuation of allergens that are the reason behind it.
For example, anticonvulsants like Neurontin can be prescribed to primary BMS patients. For menopausal women, certain hormonal replacement therapies have been introduced recently but are yet not that common.
Painkillers with specific formulas for blocking nerve pain can be given to both types of burning mouth syndrome to lessen the pain.
However, this can only be a temporary solution to primary burning mouth syndrome while in primary the doctor may also give medication to relieve the acid reflux or any other reason behind it.
While taking any medicines for burning mouth syndrome, discussing the possible side effects is an important step as many of them possess the capability of making way for other health risks.