Harvard Health Letter

By the way, doctor: What is burning mouth syndrome?

Q. My husband was diagnosed with burning mouth syndrome. This seems to be a mystery syndrome. What can you tell us about it?

A. As the name suggests, people with burning mouth syndrome feel a persistent burning sensation in or around the mouth. The patients that I see with this problem tend to be women over age 50, but men get the syndrome too.

The burning sensation can be painful and make people feel absolutely miserable. Some patients describe it as feeling like they had been burnt by hot coffee. People feel the burning on the tops of their tongues (the most common site), their lips, or the part of the hard palate right behind the upper front teeth. But any part of the mouth may be involved. Often people wake up feeling fine or with only slight burning, but as the day goes on, the burning starts or gets worse. In addition to the burning sensation, people sometimes get a metallic taste in their mouth that won't go away, or the mouth dries out.

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