If your tongue ever feels like it’s burning without cause, you’re not alone. More than one million Americans suffer from “burning mouth syndrome,” according to the World Journal of Gastroenterology, a condition characterized by this interesting (yet uncomfortable) sensation of the tongue. Your dentist can determine which symptoms you’re suffering from, and why.
The main sign of burning mouth syndrome, not surprisingly, is the sensation of your tongue burning. This feeling may also affect other soft tissue inside your mouth, such as those in your cheeks, throat or gums. Similar symptoms aren’t as common but just as familiar: numbness in your tongue or even a bitter taste in your mouth. Your mouth may also feel persistently dry.
Many health conditions have been linked to burning mouth syndrome. In fact, diabetes, acid reflux disease and menopause all have associations with this condition. Disorders of the mouth, like dry mouth syndrome, can also be responsible when saliva isn’t there to keep the tongue cleansed of certain bacteria. The cause of your irritation can be hard to identify, though, so you may not know why your tongue is burning until it stops.
Burning mouth syndrome can have a major effect on your daily routine. According to Mayo Clinic, people with burning mouth syndrome tend to have trouble falling asleep due to their discomfort. You may also have to alter your diet to navigate your discomfort. Keep in mind a tongue burning despite these behaviours can make you feel depressed or anxious, which in turn can discourage you from socializing with your friends. This can lead to impaired relationships down the line.
Just as importantly, burning mouth syndrome can make it hard for you to brush and floss your teeth. Even if your tongue and gums are uncomfortable, it’s important that you make an effort to brush and floss your teeth twice a day and once a day, respectively. Not doing so can lead to further problems, such as tooth decay and gum disease.
Diagnosing burning mouth syndrome is challenging because there is no specific test for it, so dentists need to diagnose it by process of elimination. To rule out other conditions that can cause tongue burning, blood tests, allergy tests and biopsies may be ordered. Once these and other causes of this burning sensation have been ruled out, your dentist can come to an accurate conclusion with respect to your burning mouth.
There are many things you can do at home to help ease the pain of your burning tongue. Sipping on cold drinks or sucking on ice chips can certainly help cool the burn. Chewing sugarless gum can also be helpful to stimulate saliva flow. Your dentist may ultimately recommend avoiding foods and drinks that can make the sensation worse, like spicy foods or highly acidic drinks. Tobacco and alcohol should be avoided, of course, as they can only aggravate the condition.
In tandem with home care, your dentist can also offer treatments to help manage your symptoms. If he or she thinks dry mouth is responsible for the sensation, for example, you may be told to drink more water. Your dentist may also recommend using over-the-counter saliva substitutes.
If your tongue is burning, see your dentist right away for an exam. You may have burning mouth syndrome, a very manageable condition.