Recognizing Burning Mouth Syndrome

BMS patients are often seen by a variety of healthcare professionals such as ear, nose and throat specialists, acupuncturists, nutritionists, gastroenterologists, psychologists, general physicians, general dentists, oral surgeons, periodontists, oral medicine specialists or others. Bottomley, et al. reported numerous referrals to oral medicine specialists from both dental and medical practitioners, and data from the Stomatology Center at Texas A&M University, College of Dentistry, Dallas, Texas indicate that approximately 5% of patients visiting that facility suffer from BMS while many others report burning oral discomfort as their chief complaint in association with a variety of other causes.4 A recent study by Lee, et al. reports a delay in diagnosis of Sjogren’s syndrome patients of 3 to 11 years in obtaining a diagnosis. Burning occurred in this group of patients when salivary flow was one half of normal flow.63 Reports of oral burning discomfort appear to be increasing as medical science increases life expectancy resulting in more individuals surviving with systemic conditions that may contribute to this oral dysfunction. Since BMS is defined as a specific disorder by exclusion of other factors that may initiate oral burning, it is very important that dentists and dental hygienists be familiar with systemic and local factors that may be associated with oral burning. In larger populated areas, in developed countries, it is usually possible to refer patients suspected of having BMS to an oral pathology or oral medicine specialist for diagnosis and management. However, in less populated areas of the country, general dental health care providers may be expected to diagnose and manage affected patients.