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Burning mouth syndrome (BMS), also known as stomatodynia or glossodynia, causes chronic pain inside the mouth. People with BMS also commonly experience a foul taste or dry mouth.
The term is often used when there aren’t obvious signs of other conditions causing the symptoms. However, some known oral health conditions are associated with BMS.
This condition mainly affects females during and after menopause, but males can also experience it.1 The condition isn’t fully understood by experts, and there is no specific treatment or cure.
Fortunately, BMS isn’t life-threatening and doesn’t necessarily cause other health problems. However, it can be difficult to manage and can have an impact on your quality of life.
If you have burning mouth syndrome, you may notice the following:
These symptoms may vary throughout the day. They may get worse with stress or fatigue. Some people with BMS notice decreased pain when they eat, drink, or go to bed.
Pain and other BMS symptoms can last for years. However, they sometimes improve over time; for some, the symptoms may resolve on their own.
BMS can be divided into two types. Primary BMS occurs on its own, while in secondary BMS, the burning pain can be linked to another condition.
Primary burning mouth syndrome refers to “true” BMS that isn’t linked to other medical or dental conditions. The condition is the burning pain itself.3
You’ll only be diagnosed with BMS if other possible causes have been ruled out. If your pain and other mouth symptoms result from another condition, treating that condition should make the symptoms go away, meaning you don’t have primary BMS.
Experts believe primary BMS may have to do with nerve damage and differences in pain perception.
Women experience hormonal changes during and after menopause, including a drop in estrogen levels. This can sometimes affect the way nerves perceive taste and other sensations.
Primary BMS may be more common in:
Secondary BMS refers to burning mouth pain with another underlying cause. Some conditions that can cause BMS symptoms include:
How your oral pain is treated will depend on the cause. This makes it important for your dentist or doctor to diagnose the reason for your symptoms.
If you notice visible changes to your mouth or tongue besides BMS symptoms, you likely don’t have “true” or primary BMS. You may have one of the conditions listed above.
However, you might have an underlying condition even if you don’t notice any other symptoms. See your dentist for an examination to get the treatment you need.
Diagnosing the cause of BMS symptoms is important. An actual diagnosis of BMS will only be made if there aren’t any other conditions causing the symptoms.
If you have BMS symptoms, see a dentist. They can examine your mouth and compare your symptoms to other known conditions. They may refer you to another specialist.
To arrive at a diagnosis, your dentist or another specialist may do the following:
There is no specific treatment for BMS. If you have secondary BMS (BMS symptoms caused by another condition), treating the underlying condition should cure your symptoms.
For primary BMS, various treatment methods have shown some success, including:
You may also be able to relieve BMS symptoms by doing the following:
There is no clear way to prevent BMS. However, it may help to:
These things can help mitigate factors that play a role in primary and secondary BMS.
If you have BMS, it’s important to know that it is benign. It can be distressing and reduce your quality of life, but it isn’t life-threatening.
Furthermore, although BMS is uncommon and not fully understood, the symptoms can be managed. Try to get in touch with a specialist who knows about BMS.
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