Burning Mouth Syndrome (BMS)

What is BMS?

BMS is a painful condition. Usually the tongue is affected, but the pain may also be in the lips, roof of the mouth, or throughout the mouth. The pain can last for months or years. Some people feel constant pain everyday. For others, pain increases throughout the day. For many people, the pain is reduced when eating or drinking.


Diagnosis is hard as there is usually nothing that a dentist or doctor can see during an examination. A referral to Professor Mark Schifter, a specialist in Oral Medicine and Pathology, is required to review a patient’s medical history, examine the mouth, and run a number of tests which include; blood tests, oral swab tests, allergy tests, salivary flow tests, biopsy of tissue and imaging tests.

Primary and secondary BMS

Primary BMS:
If tests do not reveal any underlying medical problem, the diagnosis is usually primary BMS. Experts believe that primary BMS is caused by damage to the nerves that control pain and taste.

Secondary BMS:
Certain medical conditions can cause BMS. Treating the medical problem will cure the secondary BMS.

Common causes of secondary BMS include:

  • Hormonal changes (such as from untreated diabetes or thyroid problem)
  • Allergies to foods.
  • Dry mouth (which can be caused by certain disorders (such as Sjogren’s Syndrome) and treatments (such as certain drugs and radiation therapy)
  • Certain medicines, such as those that reduce blood pressure.
  • Nutritional deficiencies (such as low level of vitamin B or iron)
  • Infection in the mouth (such as yeast infection)
  • Acid reflux


Your own medical specialist and physician will help you get relief. Medicines can help control pain and relieve dry mouth.

Because BMS is a complex pain disorder, the treatment that works for one person may not work for another. Symptoms of secondary BMS go away when the underlying medical condition, such as diabetes or yeast infection, is treated. If a drug is causing secondary BMS, then your doctor may switch you to a new medicine.

Helpful Hints

To help ease the pain of BMS, sip a cold beverage, suck on ice cubes, or chew sugarless gum. Avoid irritating substances such as; tobacco, hot spicy foods, alcoholic beverages, mouthwashes that contain alcohol, and products high in acid, such as citrus fruits and juices.

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