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What Can Be Done About Burning Mouth Syndrome?

Burning mouth syndrome is a chronic condition that can be hard to treat; a reader got relief by avoiding fluoride, but alpha-lipoic acid has more support.

Q. I’ve had burning mouth syndrome for years. It’s especially troublesome in the evening. For a small amount of relief, I brush my tongue with a toothbrush. Do you have any ideas?

A. Doctors may have a hard time figuring out the cause of burning mouth syndrome. Sometimes it may be due to a nutritional deficiency (zinc, iron or B vitamins). It may also be triggered by a fungal infection.

Is Toothpaste Contributing?

Another possible source of burning mouth syndrome is sensitivity to dental materials. We recently received this letter from another reader:

“I had burning mouth syndrome that started after a fluoride treatment at my dentist’s. To ease it, I rinsed and brushed (with fluoride toothpaste) and my mouth would feel better for a few minutes. Then it would start to burn again.

“A visit back to the dentist showed that my mouth and gums were healthy. The dentist suggested that I stop using fluoride toothpaste, so I did. Within a day or two, the burning mouth had subsided. I now stay away from fluoride and have no burning mouth syndrome.”

Fluoride Is Not Usually a Cause of Burning Mouth Syndrome:

We heard from a dentist with expertise in oral medicine that fluoride is not a common culprit. He offered several suggestions for treatment based on solid research:

“While there may be some instances of sensitivity associated with fluoride, in general this substance does not cause oral burning. A relatively recent systematic review of reported research based interventions for the treatment of burning mouth syndrome (Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2005 Jan 25;(1):CD002779; authors: Zakrzewska JM1, Forssell H, Glenny AM) suggests that only three treatment strategies may reduce BMS symptoms: alpha-lipoic acid (three trials), the anticonvulsant clonazepam (one trial) and cognitive behavioural therapy (one trial).

“The above results are supported by additional research. Your readers need to know this information.”

Jeff Burgess, DDS MSD

Boarded in Oral Medicine

We appreciate this input about effective treatments for burning mouth syndrome.

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About the Author
Joe Graedon is a pharmacologist who has dedicated his career to making drug information understandable to consumers. His best-selling book, The People’s Pharmacy, was published in 1976 and led to a syndicated newspaper column, syndicated public radio show and web site. In 2006, Long Island University awarded him an honorary doctorate as “one of the country's leading drug experts for the consumer.”.
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