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How to Spot Burning Mouth Syndrome

How to spot burning mouth syndrome

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May 6, 2011 -- Most people can relate to the uncomfortable feeling that occurs after scalding their mouth on hot soup or coffee. It's a relief when that burnt feeling subsides after several days. But imagine experiencing that burning sensation all day, every day. The condition is called burning mouth syndrome (BMS), and damage to the nervous system during menopause may be to blame, according to an article in General Dentistry (May/June 2011, Vol. 59:3).

The syndrome affects nearly 5% of Americans and causes a constant burning sensation, most commonly on the top of the tongue, lower lip, and roof of the mouth.

"The cause of BMS is currently unknown, but our findings support the theory that this is a neuropathic condition," said lead author Gary Klasser, DMD, in a press release. "For reasons unknown, it seems that the BMS patient's nerves are not sending and/or processing information correctly -- there's a short circuit in the nervous system and the brain can't turn off the pain receptors."

Although BMS can affect both sexes, the study confirms by a 7:1 ratio that women in their menopausal and postmenopausal years are more likely to be affected by BMS.

"For a small percentage of women, it is these hormonal changes that may alter taste and the way in which a person interprets pain," Dr. Klasser said. "The alterations may be enough to start the cascade of events that lead to BMS."

With no physical signs, it is very difficult for many health practitioners to recognize, diagnose, and manage BMS. As with most people with BMS, the patients in this study experienced oral burning symptoms for several years and visited multiple health practitioners prior to receiving a definitive diagnosis of BMS.

"Besides reporting oral burning, patients describe experiencing a dry, gritty feeling in the mouth, as well as alterations in taste," said Eugene Antenucci, DDS, a spokesperson for the Academy of General Dentistry. "But because many health practitioners are not familiar with BMS and cannot see any physical symptoms, patients often leave the doctor's office frustrated and untreated."

Although no cure currently exists, health practitioners who have an understanding of the syndrome can help patients manage their symptoms.

The following are some helpful ways for patients to alleviate BMS symptoms without taking medication:

  • Drink water regularly to keep the mouth lubricated.
  • Avoid spicy, hot, acidic foods that can amplify symptoms.
  • Chew sugarless gum to increase saliva flow.
  • Avoid tobacco and alcohol products that can cause irritation to the oral tissue.

By: DrBicuspid Staff

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