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Burning Mouth Syndrome

Q: I'm always careful to stay hydrated and chugging water all day has become a standard part of my routine. Recently, I've started getting bouts of mouth dryness and uncomfortable burning sensations, almost as if I drank a mug of super hot coffee too fast. No matter how much water I drink, though, it doesn't seem to relieve to go away. It's really unpleasant-why is this happening?

Dr. Donnica:
You probably have "burning mouth syndrome" (BMS), which is characterized by dryness and pain, tingling and numbness in the lips and tongue, and a metallic taste in the mouth. It affects seven times more women than men and is more likely in postmenopausal women. While the cause is unknown, conditions that have been reportedly linked to BMS include chronic anxiety or depression, various nutritional deficiencies (such as B12, zinc, or iron), type 2 diabetes, and changes in salivary function. If you're not taking a daily multiple vitamin with iron, you can start that today, but you should also make an appointment to see your physician.

In addition to checking for white patches inside your cheeks or on your tongue, which could signal an oral yeast infection called thrush, your doctor will also run tests to rule out other potential underlying causes (such as diabetes or a thyroid disorder). As for treatment, low doses of prescription medicines such as benzodiazepines, tricyclic antidepressants or anticonvulsants may be helpful. A patient information handout from the American Academy of Family Physicians is available at http://www.aafp.org/afp/20020215/622ph.html.

Created: 3/4/2006  -  Donnica Moore, M.D.

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