Burning Mouth Syndrome
(Glossopyrosis, Glossodynia,
Stomatopyrosis, Stomatodynia &
Oral Dysæsthesia)
What is Burning Mouth Syndrome (BMS)?

The pain is typically described as burning.  It is a persistent
and unremitting soreness without aggravating/relieving

It often lasts from months to years.

The intensity of the pain varies from slight to very severe.

Pain-killers seem to have little effect.

There is a bizarre pattern of pain radiation not consistent with
the anatomy of blood vessels or nerves.  There is sometimes
an associated
bitter or metallic taste or / and a dry mouth.

This is a common condition.  It is not inherited nor is it

What are its Causes?

Why BMS occurs is uncertain.

It seems to arise from a number of possible causes.

There is no visible abnormality or evidence of organic

BMS is associated with depression, anxiety or a stressful life-

Obsession with symptoms which may rule patient’s life.

Contributing factors may include:

  • Thrush infection (thought to be of minor importance)
  • Bacterial infections (some antibiotics have been reported
    to improve BMS)
  • Allergies (allergy to denture material)
  • Jaw joint problems (thought to be one of the most
    commonest causes)
  • Salivary gland dysfunction (severe dry mouth is thought
    to be a major cause)
  • Deficiencies (in Iron, Folate & vitamin B)
  • Hormonal (Diabetes Mellitus)
  • Psychological & psycho-social factors seem to play an
    important role in facial & oro-facial pain.
  • Psychogenic factors have been considered as the most
    common & major causative factors in BMS.

The majority of
BMS sufferers have experienced stressful life-
events / long-term social problems.  After
iron deficiency,
depression is thought to be the next most frequent causative
factor (
depression followed by generalised anxiety &

Who does it affect?

Middle-aged or older women are mainly affected.

Do I need any special tests?

Yes.  As BMS can be due to anæmia, this has to be
checked for first however, in a lot of cases, there is no
indication of

How is it treated?

There is no treatment.  Sometimes treatments for thrush can
ease the discomfort.  If the
BMS is due to anæmia, then
treatment of the
anæmia will help; likewise, if the BMS is
related to diabetes.

Mostly though, it is treated as an
atypical facial pain; that is,
anti-depressants (though not at a dose where these
drugs are acting as
anti-depressants).  It has been found in
small studies, that a
food supplement (alpha lipoic acid) has
been effective in treating BMS).

Patients often look for constant reassurance and treatment
by different practitioners.

Useful Websites:

Go 4 Hope - Finding Answers for Burning Mouth Syndrome

National Center for Emergency Medicine Informatics


European Association of Oral Medicine

Useful Articles:

J Am Dent Assoc 1995.  Burning Issues in the Treatment of
Burning Mouth Syndrome - An Evidence-Based Study of the

Eastman Dental Institute for Oral Health Care Sciences.  
Oral Medicine Clinic.  Burning Mouth Syndrome, Patient
Information Sheet 2003.

Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2004.  
Interventions for the treatment of burning mouth syndrome.

Oral Surg Oral Med Oral Pathol Oral Radiol Endod 2005.  
Vulnerability and presenting symptoms in Burning Mouth

American Dental Association 2005.  Burning Mouth Syndrome.

BMJ Clinical Evidence 2008 Burning Mouth Syndrome

Oral Maxillofacial Surg Clin N Am 2008. Burning Mouth
Syndrome - Recognition, Understanding and Management.

Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2009.  
Summary.  Interventions for the treatment of burning mouth

BJOMS 2010.  Clinical study of tongue pain.  Serum zinc,
vitamin B12, folic acid, copper concentrations and systemic
Last Updated 4th November 2010