Definition of Burning Mouth Syndrome
Menopause burning mouth syndrome occurs when women experience sensations of pain and irritation throughout the mouth and tongue, with no visible sign of lesions — and no secondary cause beyond the hormonal imbalances associated with menopause.
Symptoms of Burning Mouth Syndrome
Numbness of the mouth and tongue
Aching oral tissues
Burning Mouth Syndrome can cause pain and soreness throughout the mouth and tongue. Symptoms of burning mouth can also include sensations of aching, tingling and chronic oral itching. Many women experience heightened thirst along with menopausal burning mouth. In some cases, the tongue, or the mouth itself, can feel numb without warning. Moisture levels in the mouth may also decline, leading to dry mouth, causing tooth decay and gum disease if left untreated. Many women also experience unpleasant tastes or odors in the mouth, such as the inexplicable taste of metal.
Symptoms of burning mouth generally onset suddenly. In most cases, burning mouth is usually less noticeable, or even not present, at night. Most women find that symptoms of burning mouth begin in the morning and continue to worsen throughout the day.
Causes of Burning Mouth Syndrome
Burning Mouth Syndrome affects 40% of all menopausal women. It is triggered by the hormone imbalances that occur with menopause. Estrogen affects both the production of saliva and the sensitivity of taste buds, so lower levels of the hormones in menopause can have adverse effects on the mouth and tongue. Lowered estrogen levels especially affect the taste buds that sense bitterness. Since these taste buds are surrounded by pain neurons, the pain sensors may become more active as the taste buds atrophy. Nutritional deficiencies, oral fungus such as candidiasis, acid reflux and damage to nerves can also contribute to Burning Mouth Syndrome.
Burning Mouth Syndrome Treatments
Menopause burning mouth syndrome can best be treated by addressing the hormonal imbalance that causes symptoms during menopause. Health care professionals can check for other possible causes such as thyroid problems or nutritional deficiencies and prescribe treatments for them, as well as suggest appropriate pain relievers.
Lifestyle changes can also help a great deal. Women may experience some relief by avoiding hot or spicy foods, astringent mouthwashes and acidic foods such as citrus fruits. Sipping water frequently can also help alleviate dry mouth symptoms, and chewing sugarless gum may also moisten the oral tissues (though cinnamon or mint flavors tend to aggravate the condition). Women should also avoid alcohol, cigarettes and other tobacco products, as these will further irritate the oral tissues and tongue.
A: Definitely. Some medications, especially angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors, which are used to control high blood pressure, can worsen burning mouth syndrome or even be a primary cause. Ask your doctor whether there is a substitute medication available.
Risks of Burning Mouth Syndrome
Burning mouth syndrome can cause moderate to severe pain and last for many years. This chronic pain can also cause anxiety, irritability and depression. Though the pain often goes away at night, the emotional upset of chronic pain can cause sleep problems. In some cases, sufferers have such difficulty eating that they may become malnourished.