Burning Tongue Syndrome - Causes and Treatments

Burning tongue syndrome causes a burning sensation in your tongue. It can be part of "burning mouth syndrome", where your whole mouth including gums, lips, cheeks and palate are affected. OR it can just affect your tongue, and nothing else.

The discomfort caused by burning tongue syndrome and burning mouth syndrome can be quite bad.

It can feel as if you have scalded your tongue or mouth with boiling water. And that's just when you're sitting doing nothing.

If you try to eat or drink anything, the discomfort gets worse. The only exception is usually cold water.

For some reason, Women tend to be around seven times more likely than men to suffer with this condition. There seems to be a hormonal connection here, as it occurs most frequently in women just before the menopause. But it can occur at any age, and in men as well as women.

Burning Tongue Syndrome

The burning sensation can last for some months, and occasionally for years. In most cases, the burning sensation starts sometime before midday, gets worse as the day goes by, and then starts to ease off in the late evening. You can also get a tingling sensation or a numbness in the tongue, with a bitter, metallic taste.

The tongue looks normal, and there is no obvious abnormal appearance.

Causes of burning tongue syndrome can include:

  • A dry mouth as a result of diabetes, some medications, or Sjogren's syndrome
  • Vitamin B deficiencies
  • Tongue infections
  • Allergies to certain toothpastes or foods
  • Geographic tongue
  • Inflammatory disorders, such as Sjogren's syndome
  • Gastric acid reflux
  • Badly-fitting dentures.

For many people, the exact cause cannot be pin-pointed. This can be extremely frustrating, as it makes any treatment very difficult. It is quite common for sufferers of burning tongue sensations to also have anxiety and depression, although it is not clear if this is a possible cause of the burning syndrome, or a result of the constant discomfort from the syndrome.

Recent research has shown some links between burning tongue syndrome and a particular ingredient in nearly all toothpastes on sale. It's called sodium lauryl sulfate, and it's added to toothpastes to make them foam up and frothy. But in some people it can trigger a burning tongue sensation, as well as ulcers or canker sores.

The best toothpaste that does NOT contain sodium lauryl sulfate is from TheraBreath. I actually recommend the TheraBreath Oxygenating toothpaste, which I believe works better than the normal version!


Your doctor or dentist can carry out some tests to try to identify any possible causes. They will be looking for evidence of any vitamin deficiencies, of any infections in your mouth, and for any evidence of allergies to denture base materials, fillings, or food intolerances.

Treatment for the sensation of burning tongue will be concentrated on any possible causes that have been identified, for example making new dentures if the existing ones are found to be ill-fitting or contain something that you are allergic to.

Medications can be used to treat a dry mouth, treat any mouth infections, relieve pain, and also reduce anxiety and depression.

My self-help tips include:

  • Sipping on cold water frequently
  • Sucking ice cube may help relieve burning tongue syndrome

  • Sucking small ice cubes
  • Avoiding irritating substances such as mouthwashes containing alcohol, avoiding hot spicy foods, and foods high in acid such as citrus fruits. Some people find avoiding cinnamon and mint in any form helpful.
  • Chew sugar-free gum
  • Use plain baking soda for brushing your teeth
  • Avoiding drinking alcohol and smoking in any form
  • Keeping your teeth and gums as clean as possible, using an effective toothbrush with a gentle action. A suitable brush would be the Cybersonic (read a review of this toothbrush).

No smoking!

Burning Tongue Syndrome and burning mouth syndrome can be frustrating and strength-sapping disorders. However, with the help of health-care professionals, major relief from the worst symptoms can often be achieved.

Click to read a review of my favorite toothbrush, the Cybersonic.