Do you wake up with a burning sensation on your tongue, even though you haven’t even taken a sip of your hot cup of coffee? Does the burning last all day long, making it difficult to eat or drink anything? If so, it is likely that you are suffering from what’s known as burning mouth syndrome (BMS).
This syndrome is characterized by constant or intermittent pain, discomfort, or burning sensation in the tongue, gums, lips, insides of cheeks, the roof of the mouth, or entire oral cavity. It commonly affects the tongue. Thus it is sometimes called burning tongue syndrome. (1)
Many people who suffer from BMS indicate anxiety, depression, personality disorders and impaired quality of life (QoL). While BMS can affect anyone, it is more common in premenopausal and postmenopausal women.
The definitive cause is still unknown, and it can be challenging for doctors to diagnose. A number of tests may be performed, such as an MRI or CT scan, a biopsy of a sample of tissue from the mouth, an allergy test, and complete blood count. Some of the tests are used to rule out other conditions.
- Causes of Burning Mouth Syndrome
- Symptoms of Burning Mouth Syndrome
- Preventing Burning Mouth Syndrome
- Home Remedies to Treat Burning Mouth Syndrome
- Method 1: Baking Soda
- Method 2: Vitamin B12
- Method 3: Sodium-Free Toothpaste
- Method 4: Alpha-Lipoic Acid
- Method 5: Aloe Vera
- Method 6: Capsaicin Gel
- Method 7: Cold Water
- Method 8: Diet
- Tips for relief
Causes of Burning Mouth Syndrome
BMS can be categorized as primary or secondary. (2)
Primary burning mouth syndrome: This condition is idiopathic, meaning no obvious abnormality or cause can be identified.
Secondary burning mouth syndrome: The following underlying conditions can lead to secondary BMS, meaning it is a result or symptom of the underlying condition.
- Dry mouth, also known as xerostomia.
- Fungal infections.
- Geographic tongue, in which map-like patches appear on the tongue.
- Ill-fitted dentures leading to irritation in the oral cavity.
- Allergies to certain foods, fragrances or substances used for oral care.
- Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), which involves reflux of stomach acid that can cause burning sensations.
- Certain medications.
- Unhealthy oral habits that can lead to irritation in the mouth.
- Hypothyroidism or other endocrinal disorders.
- Stress or anxiety.
While BMS can affect anyone, it is more common in premenopausal and postmenopausal women.
Symptoms of Burning Mouth Syndrome
- Constant or intermittent burning sensation, particularly on the tongue.
- Dryness in the mouth, accompanied by excessive thirst.
- Change or loss of taste.
- Bitter or metallic taste in the mouth.
The symptoms may last throughout the day and may get worse as the day progresses. The burning sensation may also be insignificant on certain days or it may feel like a scalding burn on other days. The symptoms may come and go for days or months.
Preventing Burning Mouth Syndrome
Since the cause of BMS is not certain, little can be done to prevent it. However, if you are already suffering from the condition, home remedies and certain diet changes as described in Method 8 may help you manage the symptoms.
Home Remedies to Treat Burning Mouth Syndrome
In conjunction with taking any medication prescribed by your physician, you can take certain self-help measures to control the symptoms. You may also be able to get rid of the condition completely by following the remedies religiously.
However, if treating secondary BMS, the underlying cause will play a significant role in deciding your road to recovery.
Here are the 8 home remedies to get rid of burning mouth syndrome. Give each a try and stick to the one that gives you the most relief.
Method 1: Baking Soda
Baking soda (aka sodium bicarbonate) is a readily available alkalizing agent that will regulate pH & help get rid of the acids in the mouth and relieve the burning.
Baking soda is used by health care practitioners alone or in combination with other treatments as a first line of defense against a number of health problems, including those that could be the culprit of BMS i.e., diabetes, kidney disease, cold, & flu.
It has even been shown to have beneficial effects in the prevention & treatment of cancer.
Baking soda has beneficial disinfectant properties & has been found to help the body effectively eliminate toxins, heal from oxidative stress, & if the burning is a symptom of an infection, the baking soda will disinfect & clean the site.
You can also use baking soda occasionally to brush your teeth, instead of using regular toothpaste that may sometimes trigger burning mouth symptoms.
Single-Step Treatment: Rinse your mouth with a baking soda solution
- Add 1 teaspoon of baking soda to 1 cup of tepid water.
- Mix it well and transfer the solution to a container for storage.
Use the solution as a mouth rinse 3 times daily to get rid of burning mouth syndrome in less than 1 week.
Method 2: Vitamin B12
If your body is deficient in vitamin B, especially vitamin B12, it can affect the tissues in the mouth, causing a burning sensation. (7) Upping your intake of foods rich in vitamin B can help counter the symptoms.
You can also check with your physician about time-release vitamin B12 supplements. The time-release supplement will give your body a steady supply of the vitamin throughout the day to keep the symptoms in check.
Single-Step Treatment: Take vitamin B12 supplements daily
- Take 3,000 to 5,000 mcg of time-release vitamin B12 supplements once a day.
- You can also eat food rich in B12, such as meat, liver, fish, eggs, cheese and seafood.
Vitamin B12 supplements should improve your symptoms within 20 minutes of taking the first dose. Continue to take it for at least 1 week to get rid of burning mouth syndrome.
Method 3: Sodium-Free Toothpaste
Changing your oral care habits can give you relief from the burning mouth. Many kinds of toothpaste contain sodium lauryl sulfate, the chemical that makes toothpaste foamy.
Opt for sodium-free toothpaste to brush your teeth. You can also add in some baking soda that helps alkalinize the acids in your mouth and relieve the burning.
Things you’ll need:
- Sodium-free toothpaste
- Baking soda (an alkalizing agent)
Single-Step Treatment: Brush your teeth with a mix of baking soda & sodium-free toothpaste
- Mix toothpaste and baking soda in equal proportions in a bowl.
- Use the blend to brush your teeth, instead of your regular toothpaste.
Use it daily whenever you brush your teeth. The symptoms should be gone within 1 week.
Continue to use sodium-free toothpaste without baking soda on a long-term basis to prevent future flare-ups. You can also use these recipes to make your own sodium-free toothpaste at home.
Method 4: Alpha-Lipoic Acid
Alpha-lipoic acid is a vitamin-like compound that works as an antioxidant, repairing nerve damage and preventing damage caused by free radicals.
In the case of burning mouth syndrome, it protects and heals the nerves in the mouth and eliminates the symptoms completely with regular consumption. (3)
Single-Step Treatment: Take alpha-lipoic acid supplements
- The recommended dosage is 600 mg per day to get rid of burning mouth syndrome.
- Alternatively, you can divide the dose into 200 mg and take it 3 times daily.
Take alpha-lipoic acid supplements for 2 to 3 weeks to relieve the burning. You can continue to take it longer if needed to treat the condition completely.
You can also eat potatoes, spinach, liver, and broccoli, which are naturally rich in alpha-lipoic acid.
Method 5: Aloe Vera
In the case of burning mouth syndrome, the enzymes present in aloe vera form a protective coating on the delicate tissue in the oral cavity and speed up healing. Since it helps hydrate the tissue, it also gets rid of dry mouth and the related burning sensation. (5)
Single-Step Treatment: Apply aloe vera gel on the affected areas
- Extract the gel from an aloe vera leaf. You can learn how to extract aloe vera gel here.
- Use your finger to apply the gel all over the area that burns.
- Leave it for 15 to 20 minutes, then rinse your mouth with cold water.
Reapply 2 or 3 times daily. You should notice improvement in 1 week. Continue using it every day until you get rid of burning mouth syndrome.
Method 6: Capsaicin Gel
Capsaicin a phytonutrient found in hot peppers has powerful anti-inflammatory properties. And when applied topically has shown to be an effective alternative for the short-term treatment of BMS.
In fact, a 2017 study reported the topical application of oral capsaicin gel for relief of burning/stinging sensations in patients with burning mouth syndrome (BMS) was an effective alternative for the short-term treatment in almost all participants. (3)(4)
Single-Step Treatment: Apply capsaicin gel to your tongue
- Apply capsaicin gel on the dorsal part of tongue three times daily for 14 days,
Method 7: Cold Water
Sipping cold water can work as a temporary remedy to reduce the burning. (8) The cold temperature will help numb the nerves briefly to provide relief. If the burning is due to dry mouth, drinking cold water will also provide hydration.
Single-Step Treatment: Sip on cold water frequently
- Sip on some cold water whenever you experience burning in your mouth.
- You can also have some ice cream or frozen yogurt to provide comfort.
Method 8: Diet
Different foods can work as triggers that worsen burning mouth syndrome. It is important to rev up your diet and also keep a check on which foods trigger or aggravate the symptoms.
You can follow a few basic do’s and don’ts to help alleviate the condition. Eat fresh fruits and vegetables, foods that are rich in iron to lessen symptoms & possibly get rid of burning mouth syndrome. (9)
- Eat more iron-rich foods, such as leafy vegetables.
- Consume more eggs, liver and seafood.
- Include fruits and vegetables in your everyday meals to improve your overall health and well-being.
- Keep yourself hydrated by drinking at least 8 glasses of water throughout the day.
- Do not consume alcohol, carbonated drinks or caffeine when suffering from burning mouth syndrome.
- Reduce your intake of sugar in any form, as it aggravates the burning.
- Do not eat acidic or spicy foods.
- Reduce the amount of processed food that you eat.
Tips for relief
- If you don’t have aloe vera gel, you can also apply glycerin or honey to keep your tongue moist.
- Using salt water as a mouth rinse can also help reduce the burning.
- Do not use an alcohol-based mouthwash, as it will worsen the burning.
- McMillan R, Forssell H. Interventions for treating burning mouth syndrome. Interventions for treating burning mouth syndrome. https://www.cochrane.org/CD002779/ORAL_interventions-treating-burning-mouth-syndrome. Published November 2016.
- Aravindhan R, Vidyalakshmi S, Kumar MS, Satheesh C, Balasubramanium AM, Prasad VS. Burning mouth syndrome: A review on its diagnostic and therapeutic approach. Journal of pharmacy & bioallied sciences. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4157273/. Published July 2014.
- Ritchie A, Kramer JM. Recent Advances in the Etiology and Treatment of Burning Mouth Syndrome. Journal of dental research. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29913093. Published October 2018.
- Jorgensen MR, Pedersen ML. Analgesic effect of topical oral capsaicin gel in burning mouth syndrome. Taylor & Francis. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/00016357.2016.1269191. Published December 22, 2016.
- Jimson S, Rajesh E, Krupaa RJ, Kasthuri M. Burning mouth syndrome. Journal of pharmacy & bioallied sciences. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4439667/. Published April 2015.
- Gurvits GE, Tan A. Burning mouth syndrome. World journal of gastroenterology. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3574592/. Published February 7, 2013.
- Chakraborty SK. FISSURED AND BURNING TONGUE. The medical journal, Armed Forces India. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5531982/. Published June 2017.
- Aljanobi H, Sabharwal A, Krishnakumar B, Kramer JM. Is it Sjögren's syndrome or burning mouth syndrome? Distinct pathoses with similar oral symptoms. Oral surgery, oral medicine, oral pathology, and oral radiology. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6025751/. Published April 2017.
- Nasri-Heir C, Zagury JG, Thomas D, Ananthan S. Burning mouth syndrome: Current concepts. Journal of Indian Prosthodontic Society. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4762357/. Published 2015.