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The tongue plays a vital role in digestion, taste perception, and speech. Some people may experience a burning sensation in the mouth, which can be uncomfortable and may indicate an underlying medical issue called burning tongue syndrome.
This condition can either be chronic or recurring every few days, causing a burning, tingling, or scalded feeling in the tongue along with dryness in the mouth and changes in taste.
Burning tongue syndrome, also called glossopyrosis, is not a standalone diagnosis but rather a symptom of various disorders that can last for months or even years, with moderate to severe pain.
It can be caused by tooth grinding, hormonal changes, allergies to dental products or food, dry mouth, certain medications, nutritional deficiencies, mouth infections, and acid reflux.
Sadly, many people do not seek help for this condition, leading to further difficulties in eating and sleeping, as well as psychological disorders such as depression. Therefore, it is crucial to seek treatment and prevent the condition from escalating. (1)(2)
Ways to Treat Burning Tongue Syndrome
Here are some ways of treating burning tongue syndrome at home.
1. Drink cold water
The main issue with burning tongue syndrome is the burning sensation in the mouth. Drinking cold water can be helpful in soothing the pain and other associated symptoms. Also, drinking water will help with other symptoms associated with dry mouth and other issues.
You can also suck on ice chips and eat other cold stuff such as ice cream. (3)
2. Apply honey
Another way of naturally treating the symptoms associated with burning tongue syndrome is by applying honey. Honey is known to fight infection and may reduce the pain caused by burning tongue syndrome.
Apply honey to the tongue and leave it on for a few minutes. After which, rinse it off with water. Do this at least twice daily to reap its benefits. (4)
3. Try baking soda
Baking soda can neutralize the pH in the mouth and restore the normal pH level. It is also helpful in fighting mouth infections and thus in managing symptoms of burning tongue syndrome.
Mix baking soda with water, and gargle the mixture at least two times a day.
You can also brush your teeth with baking soda now and then. Do not brush your teeth with baking soda every day because it erodes the enamel and can be harmful to your tooth health. (5)
4. Apply aloe vera
Aloe vera has soothing properties and can be a very good way to treat the burning sensation associated with glossopyrosis. It may also keep you away from dry mouth and other symptoms.
Apply organic aloe vera gel to your tongue and leave it on for a few minutes. Then, rinse it off with water. Repeat these two or three times every day. (6)
5. Consider glycerin
Glycerin is also a very popular remedy for soothing the mouth. It reduces dryness in the mouth, which is the reason it is a good treatment for burning tongue syndrome. It will accelerate healing and keep the tongue healthy.
All you have to do is apply some glycerin to your tongue and let it sit for a few minutes. Then, rinse it off with water. (7)
6. Follow a diet rich in vitamin B and magnesium
A deficiency of vitamin B12 can affect the tongue and has been associated with burning tongue syndrome. Therefore, increasing the intake of vitamin B can be helpful in managing the symptoms of the condition.
Foods rich in vitamin B include:
- Whole grains
You may also take vitamin B complex supplementation, but only after consulting your doctor. (8)
Moreover, it’s important to consider the magnesium levels in your red blood cells and parotid saliva when treating burning tongue syndrome. People with the condition tend to have lower levels of magnesium in these areas compared to those with oropyrosis or normal subjects.
Therefore, ensuring enough magnesium in their diet could be a crucial aspect of the treatment plan. (9) Foods abundant in this mineral include spinach, peanuts, oats, and almonds.
Types of Burning Tongue Syndrome
Doctors have identified two different groups of patients with burning mouth syndrome:
- People who experience burning sensations only on the front part of the tongue (glossopyrosis)
- People who experience burning sensations in multiple areas of the mouth, including the tongue, lips, palate, gums, and cheeks (oropyrosis)
Foods to Avoid When Suffering From Burning Mouth Syndrome
To help with the symptoms of burning mouth syndrome, avoid the following: (10)
- Spicy foods
- Acidic foods
Most-Asked Questions About Burning Tongue Syndrome
What is primary and secondary burning tongue syndrome?
Burning tongue syndrome that occurs due to issues with the sensory nerves is known as primary burning tongue syndrome, while secondary burning tongue syndrome can be due to underlying medical issues such as: (11)
- Food allergies
- Gastroesophageal reflux disease
- Medicinal side effects
- Endocrine disorders such as diabetes and thyroid issues
- Psychological issues such as anxiety and depression
- Over oral hygiene
- Inadequate nutritional intake
- Drug abuse
- Oral infections with the main pathogen being a fungal organism (Candida albicans) or bacteria including Enterobacter, Klebsiella, Staphylococcus aureus, and Helicobacter pylori
What are the symptoms associated with burning tongue syndrome?
The primary symptom of burning tongue syndrome is a burning sensation in the mouth or on the tongue specifically. But this can be accompanied by other signs such as: (12)
- Dry mouth
- Increased thirst
- Loss of taste
- Extreme redness of the tongue
- Bumps on the tongue
- Metallic taste in the mouth
What are the risk factors of burning tongue syndrome?
The following factors can increase the risk of a person suffering from burning tongue syndrome:
- Age above 50 in women
- Dry mouth
- Ill-fitting dentures or allergies to dental products, dental materials (usually metals), or some foods
- Taking blood pressure medication
- Erratic use of sleeping pills or anti-allergy medicine
What tests are done to diagnose burning tongue syndrome?
A diagnosis of burning tongue syndrome can often be made based on the symptoms alone. However, in some cases, tests may be necessary to identify the underlying cause of the condition.
These tests could include a complete blood cell count, fasting blood glucose test, thyroid level test, and nutritional factor test. Additionally, oral cultures may be taken if there is a suspicion of a bacterial, fungal, or viral infection.
Burning tongue syndrome is a condition that can be a result of various underlying medical issues and can cause moderate to severe pain, changes in taste, dryness in the mouth, and psychological disorders such as depression.
It is important to seek medical attention to prevent the condition from escalating. There are several ways to treat this condition at home, including drinking cold water, increasing vitamin B intake, and applying honey, baking soda, aloe vera, and glycerin.