Burning mouth syndrome

Burning mouth syndrome is the medical term for ongoing (chronic) or recurrent burning in the mouth without an obvious cause. The discomfort may affect your tongue, gums, lips, inside of your cheeks, roof of your mouth or widespread areas of your whole mouth. Burning mouth syndrome appears suddenly and can be severe, as if you scalded your mouth.

Unfortunately, the cause of burning mouth syndrome often can't be determined. Although that makes treatment more difficult, don't despair. By working closely with your health care team, you can often get burning mouth syndrome under better control.

Other names for burning mouth syndrome include scalded mouth syndrome, burning tongue syndrome, burning lips syndrome, stomatodynia and glossodynia.

Symptoms Causes Risk factors Complications Prevention

Symptoms of burning mouth syndrome may include:

  • A burning sensation that most commonly affects your tongue, but may also affect your lips, gums, palate, throat or whole mouth
  • A sensation of dry mouth with increased thirst
  • Taste changes, such as a bitter or metallic taste
  • Loss of taste

The discomfort from burning mouth syndrome typically has several different patterns. It may occur every day, with little discomfort when you wake, but become worse as the day progresses. Or it may start as soon as you wake up and last all day. Or discomfort may come and go.

Whatever pattern of mouth discomfort you have, burning mouth syndrome may last for months to years. In rare cases, symptoms may suddenly go away on their own or become less frequent. Burning mouth syndrome usually doesn't cause any noticeable physical changes to your tongue or mouth.

When to see a doctor

If you have discomfort, burning or soreness of your tongue, lips, gums or other areas of your mouth, see your doctor or dentist. They may need to work together to help pinpoint a cause and develop an effective treatment plan.

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