Lifestyle column: Help! My mouth is burning

There are many causes of a burning sensation in the mouth. These need to be eliminated before the diagnosis of Burning Mouth Syndrome can be applied.

Richard Guyver
Richard Guyver

Other conditions would include lichen planus, diabetes, underactive thyroid, dry mouth, fungal infections, haematinic (iron, folic acid, vitamin b) deficiency, drug reactions, hypersensitivity to foods or dental materials, night-time tooth clenching or tongue thrusting. Once we are happy that none of these are causing the burning sensation then we can assign the diagnosis of Burning Mouth Syndrome.

Burning Mouth Syndrome is a condition where there are no obvious underlying causes and so has been termed as a Medically Unexplained Symptom. This does not detract from the fact that it is a real condition that people suffer from. It indicates that medical science has not yet found a true explanation. It is a fairly common complaint and can affect up to 2.5% of the population. We are more likely to suffer as we get older and women tend to have it more than men. It is not an infectious condition which means it cannot be passed on to others. It leads to no long-term consequences.

Sign up to our daily SussexWorld Today newsletter

Although there has been no proven relationship with hormonal changes, Burning Mouth Syndrome has been reported in up to 40% of women presenting for treatment of menopausal symptoms.

In about 50 per cent of Burning Mouth Syndrome cases no cause can be found, and in the others there is often a link with depression, anxiety or a phobia of cancer.

Burning Mouth Syndrome can affect any part of the mouth but most commonly the tongue. The burning is typically there all the time on both sides of the tongue and is often relieved by eating and drinking (this is in contrast to most other causes of burning sensation). Alcohol can also relieve or reduce the symptoms. It is sometimes associated with altered taste, increased thirst and headaches.

When we inspect an area that suffers it looks completely normal, and if it were to be biopsied no difference would be seen when observed under a microscope.

Many people opt to have no treatment, although some do find that there is relief of the symptoms with certain medications which control the way nerves react.

If you are someone who suffers from a burning sensation in the mouth it is important to have it checked out first by your dentist so that any treatable cause can be identified. If a true diagnosis of Burning Mouth Syndrome is made, then you can find additional resources and information at

Richard Guyver is principal dentist at envisage-Emsworth dental practice and is author of the book Live Another 4006 Days And Improve Your Health With Dental Medicine.

Visit his website to find out more.