Tingling, numbness or a constant feeling of burning in the mouth or tongue may indicate a health condition known as burning mouth syndrome. Other symptoms include extreme dry mouth, as well as a sandy or gritty feeling on the tongue and gums that never goes away, and many patients report feeling as if they drank a cup of too hot coffee. While burning mouth syndrome affects only a small percentage of Americans, for some individuals, it could be a sign of a more serious health situation.
According to the American Academy of Oral Medicine, only about 2 percent of Americans are affected by this disorder. Although a direct cause of burning mouth syndrome has not been discovered, researchers believe that it develops when the taste and sensory nerves of the mouth and tongue stop working properly, and quit sending impulses to the brain. Without this information, the brain cannot turn off the mouth’s pain receptors. This leaves a painful, constant burning feeling in the mouth.
Another theory on how burning mouth syndrome develops links the disorder to diabetes. Diabetes causes inflammation in tissues throughout the body, including the mouth. Many diabetic patients with diabetes often suffer from gum inflammation.
Some burning mouth syndrome patients experience the condition while using certain medications, especially those medications prescribed to control high blood pressure. Some individuals develop burning mouth syndrome from over use of some vitamins or nutritional supplements, like zinc. Too little zinc may also cause the condition, along with a lack of iron or vitamin B-12.
Candida fungus, also known as oral thrush, leaves the mouth feeling like it is burning and dry. Patients with gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD, also frequently experience feelings of burning in the mouth and tongue caused by stomach acid eruptions.
While the cause of burning mouth syndrome may be a mystery, patients should still relay their symptoms to their dentists as part of their total health review. Dr. Steven P. Rogers, D.M.D, P.C., is a Grant’s Pass, Oregon, dentist who makes a point to review his patients’ total health history as part of their regular dental checkups.