For most of us, it’s rather difficult to imagine what something called “burning mouth syndrome” must feel like – especially when many of the unfortunate men and women plagued by the condition say it feels like “your whole mouth is on fire.” For some, this feeling of “being on fire” is similar to having a constantly scalded tongue. For others, burning mouth is described colorfully (and with painful realism) like a pack of matches has been stuck under your tongue, and then lit on fire. Not good. When you consider burning mouth syndrome can last anywhere from months to years, neither sounds very enjoyable. If you’re now wondering what causes burning mouth syndrome, and how you can avoid it, you’re not alone – science wants to know as well.
What Is Burning Mouth Syndrome?Unfortunately, burning mouth syndrome is medical puzzle that remains unsolved. Doctors and researchers are far from understanding its causes or cures, and even its diagnosis is a lackluster “diagnosis by exclusion.” In other words, because the feeling of a mouth “on fire” can be caused by a multitude of other illnesses and trauma, doctors must poke and prod, and test and re-test, until they’ve literally reached the end of every diagnostic possibility. If the persistent feeling of a lit box of matches under your tongue weren’t enough to frustrate you, the endless testing to find out what was causing that disturbing feeling certainly would.
Fortunately, only 1% of the population experiences symptoms prolonged enough to warrant a burning mouth diagnosis. So, your chances of being diagnosed are thankfully, slim. Still, thousands do find themselves with the predicament, and a “community” of sufferers is beginning to develop that will hopefully encourage further research in the area.
There are many guesses as to what causes burning mouth, including vitamin and mineral deficiencies, hypersensitivity of the tongue, diabetes, neuropathy and hormonal changes brought about by menopause. Most sufferers are, in fact, women, but since men can also fall victim, gender is clearly not the only cause. Treatment can include nutritional supplements, the adjustment of dentures and other oral appliances, and nerve stimulation if the cause is believed to be nerve-related. But the answer to the cause and proper treatment remain elusive.