Dr Deborah Lee – Burning Mouth Syndrome (BMS) – A Personal View
Burning Mouth Syndrome (BMS) is a miserable condition. I know this very well as I have suffered from it myself for the past 2 years. I’m writing this from the heart to try and help any fellow sufferers.
These are my personal experiences and views – if you also have BMS please make sure you see your own dentist/doctor before taking any action.
No-One Understands What BMS Really Is
BMS symptoms are lumped together. Like so many syndromes, no-one really understands what causes it, or how to treat it. It tends to affect middle-aged women around the time of menopause. There is just one common factor – a severe burning sensation in the mouth.
So often, I read that BMS is caused by stress and anxiety, but I do not believe this to be the case. Stress and anxiety can make the symptoms of any disease worse, but I do not think these are the root cause of this medical condition. Undoubtedly, living with BMS can make anyone depressed.
As a doctor myself, I have researched BMS and lived through the overwhelming symptoms which have reduced me to tears. In the evening, my mouth pain is so severe I can’t sit still and watch TV. My only salvation has been my mouthguard and getting to sleep.
However, below are some of the important things I would like to share, to try and help others like me.
My BMS – A Personal View
My mouth symptoms are better when I wake in the morning and worsen during the day – which coincides of course, with the need to eat and drink.
In my opinion, my mouth pain is caused by gum recession, and osteoporosis in my jaw, such that my teeth are moving. As a result, there is greater exposure of previously hidden nerve endings in my mouth. I can see my teeth have changed position when I look at photos or look in the mirror.
I’m 58 years old. I’ve always visited the dentist and the dental hygienist regularly. I do not have gum disease (gingivitis). I’ve never smoked. I’ve been on HRT and calcium supplements for the past 8 years. I don’t drink a lot of alcohol, am physically active and have a normal BMI.
Unfortunately, I tripped over and fractured my left wrist a few weeks ago – my first Osteoporotic fracture. I know I have reduced bone density from previous DXA scans but have not had one for several years.
My BMS – My Treatment Plan
Here’s some good news. I have recently created my own treatment plan and to my great relief, it is working. My symptoms are about 40% better. Read on and see –
- Being Kind To My Mouth
I changed to a sodium laurel sulphate (SLS-free) toothpaste for sensitive mouths – Zendium sensitive. Flossing my teeth has become easier with an electric water flosser. I now use a soft head on my electric toothbrush. All this is kinder and less traumatic for my teeth and gums.
- Taking An Antioxidant
I have started taking 300 mg of alpha-lipoic acid (ALA) twice a day. This is an antioxidant. which has been used with some success in diabetics with neuropathic pain. ALA stimulates the production of nerve growth factor.
Studies have been conflicting but overall, symptom relief seems significantly better using ALA than a placebo. For example, in one, small, 2015, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial, 64% of patients taking ALA reported improvement.
- Using A Fluoride Mouth Wash
Fluoriguard mouth rinse, twice a day, is a long term treatment to strengthen tooth enamel.
- Calcium Supplements
Calcium intake is very important for bone health. I take calcium citrate 1300 mg/day with 2000 IU vitamin D, in divided doses. ALA and calcium tablets should be taken separately and at least 4 hours apart.
- Dietary Calcium
Dietary calcium is very important. I’m eating soya, tofu, and figs! I now drink almond milk because this contains unsaturated (healthy) fat, in which there are fat-soluble vitamins, probably better for bone health.
- Bone Health
I’ve had a bone profile (blood test) checked, including parathyroid hormone levels, and magnesium levels. I’m waiting for a DXA scan, and a rheumatology opinion. I plan to start some osteoporosis treatment soon.
- Mouth Health
I had a mouth biopsy a few weeks ago as there was a thickening in my cheek. I suspect this is a lichenoid reaction – a mouth allergy – although what am I allergic to?
- Getting Rid Of Allergens
My husband suddenly developed a methylisothiazolinone allergy, while doing the washing-up! 1.5% of the population are allergic to methylisothiazolinone, commonly found in many cleaning products. Small traces of this on plates and cutlery from the dishwasher, for example, could perhaps be upsetting my teeth. We changed all our household cleaning products to natural, eco-friendly products.
- A Good Quality Mouthguard
I use a SOVA night guard which is slim, lightweight and fits snugly on my teeth. When in place, this gives instant relief.
BMS affects everyone differently. However, I’m relieved that by my own detective work, I’ve been able to make such an improvement to my symptoms.
What could be the underlying cause of your burning mouth symptoms?
About The Author
Dr Deborah Lee has worked for many years in the NHS, mostly as Lead Clinician within an integrated Community Sexual Health Service. She now works as a health and medical writer, with an emphasis on women’s health. Dr Lee is a medical content writer for Dr Fox (Dr Fox Online Pharmacy).
Dr Lee writes for many media outlets including The Sun, The Daily Express, Bella magazine, Red magazine, Cosmopolitan, Net Doctor, and many more. She remains passionate about all aspects of medicine – including obesity, weight loss, diet, and nutrition.
After qualifying from University of Southampton Medical School in 1986, Dr Lee trained as a GP and after a number of years specialised in Sexual & Reproductive Health (S&RH).
Sexual And Reproductive Health Specialist, Medical And Healthcare Writer, BM, MFFP, MRCGP, DRCOG, Dip GUM, Dip Colp, LOC Med Ed GMC no. 3129913.
For More Information
- com – Alpha-lipoic acid