Burning mouth syndrome—a diagnostic dilemma



Burning mouth syndrome (BMS) is a chronic pain disorder, more common in peri and postmenopausal females, with a varied symptomatology. Symptoms include a burning or stinging sensation of the tongue, lips or other oral mucosal surfaces, subjectively dry mouth or excess saliva, altered taste or loss of taste and paraesthetic sensations. These are usually present daily for more than 3 months.


The aims of this study were to highlight the symptomatic manifestations of BMS along with the need for prompt diagnosis and onward referral when necessary.


A cross-sectional study of patients with idiopathic BMS was conducted. The presenting symptoms, time to diagnosis and number of clinicians seen in advance of a diagnosis of BMS and anxiety and depression as determined by the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale (HADS) was recorded. Correlations were explored.


Fifty patients were enrolled in this study (38, F:12, M). The average time from onset of symptoms to diagnosis was 13 months. Commonly reported symptoms included burning (n = 44) and altered taste (n = 14). The median anxiety score was 13 and the median depression score was 10. No statistically significant correlations were found between the anxiety and depression scores generated and the number of clinicians seen or the time to diagnosis.


The results of this study indicate that there is a need for an increased awareness of the symptoms reported in BMS, particularly in peri and postmenopausal women. This should aid prompt diagnosis and may alleviate some of the anxiety that patients may experience.

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Correspondence to Richeal Ni Riordain.

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Ni Riordain, R., O’Dwyer, S. & McCreary, C. Burning mouth syndrome—a diagnostic dilemma. Ir J Med Sci 188, 731–734 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11845-018-01960-y

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  • Burning mouth syndrome
  • Diagnostic delay
  • Presenting symptoms