When you really stop to think about it, it’s amazing how much time you spend NOT thinking about your tongue. Despite how important your tongue is for things you do every day, you probably don’t spare it a moment’s thought through all the singing, talking, chewing, and tasting you do in your busy life. However, when something goes wrong, suddenly you can’t ignore your tongue, no matter how hard you try. A burning tongue, particularly when it’s from burning tongue syndrome (sometimes called burning mouth syndrome), can be impossible to ignore. So, what are the main causes of burning tongue (or burning mouth) syndrome, what can be done for it, and what else might be going on if it’s not burning tongue syndrome?
What is Burning Tongue Syndrome?
Burning tongue syndrome or burning mouth syndrome is a condition where your mouth and /or tongue feels like it is on fire, similar to the way it would feel if you physically burned it on hot foods or liquids. It’s not considered dangerous to your overall, long-term health. Still, it is a pain disorder, so it’s not likely something you’re willing and able to ignore if you a dealing with it. Primary burning tongue syndrome has no clear cause and is chronic. Secondary burning tongue syndrome is caused by an underlying condition and may clear up once the underlying problem is corrected.
What Are the Symptoms?
As you might expect, the primary symptom is a feeling like a burn inside your mouth, on the tongue or on other oral surfaces. You might also notice a loss of taste or a strange metallic taste in the mouth. Sometimes, people also report numbness or tingling in the mouth. Dry mouth symptoms, including increased thirst, are also possible.
What Causes Burning Tongue (or Burning Mouth) Syndrome?
Sometimes, dry mouth is not just a symptom of burning mouth syndrome; it can be a cause. Some medications can also cause both dry mouth and burning tongue syndrome. Vitamin B12 deficiencies can also leave you with a burning tongue. Infections or reflux, both of which can change your oral pH and make your oral environment more acidic, or physical irritations of your mouth like biting your tongue, grinding your teeth, or scraping your mouth, tongue, and cheeks by brushing too hard can all cause or worsen burning tongue. Allergic reactions are frequent contributors to burning tongue. Stress and anxiety are also factors sometimes. There is also an association between burning tongue syndrome and menopause. However, sometimes, there is no cause found. In that case, it’s called primary burning tongue syndrome or primary burning mouth syndrome.
What Can be Done for This Condition?
If you have an underlying condition that caused the secondary burning tongue syndrome, treating that condition is apt to help your burning mouth resolve. It may be necessary to take B12 vitamin supplements, to change medications to a less irritating formula, or treat oral pH imbalances or oral infections. If allergies are causing the problems, it will be necessary to avoid whatever is causing the reaction. That may mean avoiding certain foods, additives, dyes, or even changing toothpaste to avoid irritating ingredients. If stress or habits like chewing or scraping are contributing to a burning tongue, behavior changes and stress management are likely to be part of your burning tongue management plan. There have been some studies that looked at hormone replacement therapy (HRT) for menopause-related burning mouth syndrome. It appears to help some women with symptoms, but not all, so more study is recommended. For primary burning mouth syndrome, pain-relieving medication, medication to reduce nerve sensitivity, or antidepressant medications are usually recommended to relieve the symptoms since it’s not possible to treat the (unknown) cause.
What If It’s Not Burning Mouth Syndrome?
It’s possible that it’s a simple burn. If your tongue started burning after eating hot foods or having a hot beverage and it clears up on its own in a few days, you likely just burned your tongue. If you have a burning tongue after eating pineapple, that is fairly common. The enzymes in pineapple can irritate your mouth surfaces, particularly if you eat a lot of fresh pineapples. If you love pineapple but not the burning sensation that follows, you can try switching to cooked pineapple, which decreases the enzyme activity of the pineapple.
If you suspect you have this or any oral health condition, be sure to see your dental care team to make sure you have correctly identified any potential problems and are using the best treatment options for you.