Dear Dr. Gott: I have suffered with burning mouth syndrome (BMS) since 2001. I have worked with my doctor and have had every test the Mayo Clinic recommended, to no avail. Recently, my sister called and told me of an article she read where the patient had suffered for 20 years with the condition and found the cause in toothpaste.
Could you please send me any information you have on BMS, including this article with the name of the toothpaste?
Dear Reader: Burning mouth syndrome causes searing pain that can spread throughout the entire mouth — from the lips, gums and tongue to the insides of the cheeks. It can cause a loss of taste, increased thirst, dry mouth, tingling and more. The pattern may be constant, or it might come and go. When the specific cause cannot be diagnosed, it is believed linked to problems with the sensory nerves of the peripheral or central nervous system. There may be a nutritional deficiency or an underlying medical condition.
The condition may be related to medications, primarily those taken for hypertension. It may be caused by hypothyroidism (an underactive thyroid), diabetes, nutritional deficiencies, exposure to contaminants or allergies to food additives. As I am sure you can attest, it can be extremely frustrating when the specific cause cannot be identified. When a diagnosis is found, it is often accomplished through a process of elimination, ruling out other possible causes. That is to say, blood tests might be normal, you may not be allergic to food additives, you may not have an oral fungal, bacterial or viral infection, and so forth. As you can appreciate, this makes treatment difficult. People who suffer from BMS should begin by seeing their primary-care physician, who may refer them to a dentist, otolaryngologist or other specialist. Possible causes include oral-thrush medication, lozenges, oral rinses or mouthwashes, a trial with the B vitamins or cognitive behavioral intervention.
On the home front, you should avoid eating spicy foods, or those that contain cinnamon or mint. Refrain from tobacco products, reduce your stress level, and — perhaps my most important suggestion — use toothpaste and soaps that are free of sodium laurel sulfate (SLS). This ingredient is used extensively and can cause adverse reactions in some people. Stress can be a factor. Consider practicing yoga, tai chi or another form of relaxation exercise.
To provide related information, I am sending you a copy of my Health Report “Managing Chronic Pain.” Other readers who would like a copy should send a self-addressed stamped No. 10 envelope and a $2 check or money order payable to Newsletter and mailed to Newsletter, P.O. Box 167, Wickliffe, OH 44092-0167. Be sure to mention the title or print an order form off my website at AskDrGottMD.com.
Dear Dr. Gott: Your article in March 2010 about retinal detachment saved my sight. I had the symptoms described in the article and have had two reattachment surgeries. I also will have cataract surgeries on both eyes and cannot thank you enough.
Dear Reader: I have always felt that if I can help just one person through what could be a difficult situation, then I have accomplished something good. I am glad that you had the foresight to associate your symptoms with a problem that required the services of a doctor. There isn’t much of a second chance when it comes to our eyes. It’s not like losing baby teeth and having new ones appear. Eyes are precious and should be protected and cared for in the same way as the rest of the body.
Thank you for taking the time to write. Good luck with your upcoming cataract repair.