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What are the causes of a burning tongue?

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Quick Answer

A burning tongue is usually caused by burning mouth syndrome, or BMS, according to MedicineNet. The condition also causes painful sensations in the lips and general discomfort of the mouth.

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Diagnosis of burning mouth syndrome is difficult because dentists and doctors cannot easily see the cause of the problem during an exam, explains MedicineNet. To check for certain medical conditions, a doctor may perform a number of tests, including blood, oral swab, allergy, salivary flow, biopsy of tissue and imaging. If an underlying medical problem is not revealed by the tests, the diagnosis is considered primary BMS.

It is believed that primary BMS is caused by damage to nerves that control pain and taste, according to MedicineNet. If additional medical conditions are discovered, the BMS is considered secondary. Treatment of the medical condition typically cures the secondary BMS. Common causes of secondary BMS include hormonal changes, allergies to dental products, dry mouth, nutritional deficiencies, certain medicines, mouth infections and acid reflux.

Primary BMS is usually treated with prescription medications, states Mayo Clinic. Drinking an increased amount of fluids can ease dry mouth, but carbonated beverages should be avoided. Tobacco products and alcohol should be avoided as well, because they can irritate the linings of the mouth. Foods with cinnamon and mint, and acidic foods and drinks such as tomatoes, orange juice, soft drinks and coffee, can also cause irritation. Reducing stress sometimes improves a patient's condition as well.

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