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Harvard Medical School
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General Medical Questions
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Question : Have there been any advances in the treatment of burning mouth/tongue syndrome. I went to a pain management center for it, but they couldn’t help.
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The Trusted Source
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David M. Vernick, M.D. is assistant professor of otology and laryngology at Harvard Medical School and chief of the Division of Otology and Laryngology at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center.

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February 08, 2012
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A:

It’s hard to manage burning mouth/tongue syndrome. It happens more often in middle-aged women and in people with diabetes.

It could be caused from:

  • Acid reflux
  • Allergies
  • An infection
  • Medicines
  • Nerve damage
  • Poor nutrition
  • Trauma

Experts have suggested many other causes, too. And often no specific trigger starts the pain.

To evaluate the symptoms, your doctor will take a thorough history with special attention to the more common causes. He or she will examine your mouth and tongue. Blood tests might also be helpful.

If your doctor can find a specific cause, then directed treatment usually helps.

Even if no cause can be found, you can try these things to help ease the discomfort:

  • Drink plenty of fluids
  • Use oral rinses — ask your doctor or pharmacist for advice
  • Keep your mouth moist with lozenges and salivary replacement products
  • Try changing brands of mouth wash or toothpaste
  • Avoid spicy and acidic foods
  • Avoid cinnamon and mint
  • Don’t smoke or use any tobacco products

For persistent pain, your doctor has a wide variety of pain medicines to choose from. Some people get relief with low dose antidepressants or anti-anxiety medicines.

Even with all these options, not everyone gets relief. That’s mostly because an underlying cause might not be found. The good news is that symptoms usually get better over time for reasons just as mysterious as why they started in the first place.

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