What is Burning Mouth Syndrome (BMS)?

Burning Mouth Syndrome, also known as burning tongue or burning mouth, is a painful and unpleasant condition commonly characterized by a burning, tingling, stinging or scalding sensation in the mouth. This sensation usually affects the tongue, specifically the tip and lateral borders. However, the lips, the hard palate, and the soft palate can also be affected.

Moreover, patients may experience a burning or stinging sensation on a daily basis for a period of several months, sometimes longer. Other common symptoms associated with BMS include xerostomia (dry mouth) and dysgeusia (an impaired sense of taste), such as a bitter or metallic taste in the mouth. Nevertheless, patients with this disorder often do not exhibit physical symptoms in the oral mucosa detectable during a physical examination.

Individuals suffering from BMS can exhibit symptoms that vary substantially in both degree and intensity, heavily dependent on the patient’s general overall health. Psychological factors like sleep disorders, for example, tend to contribute to the presence of BMS.

Significantly more prevalent in women, the BMS male-female ratio is 1:7. And on average, those affected by BMS are between the ages of 50 and 60.

Contributing Factors

Furthermore, the etiology of this disorder can be attributed to a number of factors, ranging from local to systemic, to psychological.

Local factors that can be attributed to causing BMS include parafunctional habits like grinding, lip-biting, thumb-sucking, or clenching; poorly fitting prostheses like bridges, crowns or dental implants; allergic reactions, infections, dysgeusia and xerostomia.

BMS can also arise due to several systemic factors like endocrine alterations (diabetes, hypothyroidism, menopause), anemia, gastroesophageal reflux, and Sjogren’s syndrome, vitamin B complex, and iron and zinc deficiencies.

Psychological factors like stress, depression, and anxiety can also contribute to the presence and severity of BMS.

BMS is now widely acknowledged as a real Small Fiber Neuropathy, as this disorder is often the result of neural alterations. Fluctuating hormone levels, or the dramatic drop in gonadal steroid supply often linked to stress and anxiety, during menopause can lead to major modifications in the production of neuroactive steroids. And neurodegenerative alterations of the small nerve fibers of the oral mucosa and/or some brain areas implicated in oral somatic sensations can result.

How Laser Therapy Can Help

Laser therapy can not only be used to significantly improve nerve regeneration, but also to incite neurogenesis and synaptogenesis in patients suffering with BMS, a real Small Fiber Neuropathy.

Reducing many of the signs and symptoms of inflammation in patients with BMS, laser therapy — photobiomodulation, in particular — can reduce edema, local temperature, erythema, and pain. Additionally, photobiomodulation can considerably advance cell and tissue regeneration, nerve regeneration, and function restoration for those living with BMS.

Also common in BMS patients are salivary alterations, which can be treated using laser therapy as well. Helping to improve salivary stimulation, laser phototherapy, combined with adjustments to medications and systemic conditions, may effectively eliminate the cause of decreased saliva.

Treating BMS

As a multifactorial condition, treatment of a systemic, local, or psychological factor contributing to BMS typically leads to significant improvement of BMS-related discomfort and symptoms.

However, it has been confirmed that low-level laser radiation therapy can help to alleviate symptoms and pain associated with BMS. When used to treat the salivary glands, the extra-oral laser treatment’s objective is to stimulate regeneration and encourage saliva production. Moreover, the intra-oral laser treatment can be performed on the tongue for the regeneration of the lingual papillae and minor never fibers. The same protocol can also be applied to patients with dysgeusia.

And so, introducing a Summus Medical Laser to your practice may help treat patients suffering from the painful and uncomfortable symptoms associated with the complicated condition of BMS.