Burning Mouth Syndrome (BMS) is burning, scalding or tingling sensation in the tongue, mouth and gums. BMS is also sometimes referred to as oral neuralgia. This condition is estimated to occur in 4-18% of the population, or 90-120 out of 100,000 people. There is no known cause, no known cure. The most common medication prescribed is klonopin, or clonazepam, an anti-epileptic and panic disorder medication. Unfortunately pharmaceutical treatments are often ineffective. It tends to occur more frequently in people 50 years or older and women are 7 times more likely to develop it than men.
BMS has two categories: Primary BMS has no underlying causes. Secondary BMS can be associated with vitamin deficiency (iron, zinc, folate, B vitamins), Sjogren’s (an autoimmune condition) or Parkinson’s disease.
People who suffer from BMS are at higher risk for developing anxiety and depression and suffer with a lower quality of life. A recent new patient @ Yin Rising Acupuncture sought help for his BMS: he developed BMS over 4 years ago. His medical doctors have him on many different medications to try and manage his symptoms: the medications are largely ineffective. He shared that his life was horrible due to constant pain from mid morning until the early evening. The pain prevented him from going places, from working and from enjoying food. I’ll refer to him as “H” for the rest of this article.
Fortunately there is evidence that Acupuncture is successful in helping people with BMS reduce and manage their symptoms! A systemic review found that Acupuncture is an effective method for reducing BMS symptoms (Yan, 1985). Another study published in The British Dental Journal found that Acupuncture was very effective in reducing BMS symptoms within 20 treatments (2-3 treatments per week) and that with follow up treatments, patients remained better (with either no symptoms or minimal symptoms) 18 months post treatment. This study showed that Acupuncture improves oral microcirculation to alleviate symptoms (Scardina, 2010).
In Acupuncture theory the Heart meridian ‘flowers’ into the tongue and the mouth in general is associated with the Stomach meridian. The point, Large Intestine 4, is the Command point of the face/head (also often used for headaches). H’s treatment plan includes points along the Heart Meridian, Stomach Meridian, the Large Intestine Meridian as well as points on the face, scalp and ears. H reports that as soon as the needles go in his pain disappears and the treatments make him feel peaceful and relaxed.
Prior to receiving acupuncture H suffered daily with a pain level of 10/10. His only relief came from sucking in ice cubes. After his first Acupuncture treatment the pain in his gums went away. After his fourth treatment, the pain in his upper palate went away. After adding Eastern Herbal formulas to his treatment his pain in the tongue dropped to a 2/10. While he still has a few days when the pain is bad, overall his pain levels have been constantly 2-4/10. H says that he feels hopeful again. He’s considering going back to work. He says that even his dreams are happy now. After H’s 16th acupuncture treatment he excitedly reported having his best day in 4 years and gleefully shared that he enjoyed a hot dog with sauerkraut and mustard - the first time since developing BMS! I will update this case study again in a few weeks to report his progress.
Do you know someone with BMS? We love to help people feel better naturally with Acupuncture! Send them our way @ Yin Rising Acupuncture!
Scardina, G. A., Ruggieri, A., Provenzano, F., & Messina, P. (2010). Burning mouth syndrome: is acupuncture a therapeutic possibility?. British dental journal, 209(1), E2. https://doi.org/10.1038/sj.bdj.2010.582
Yan, Z., Ding, N., & Hua, H. (2012). A systematic review of acupuncture or acupoint injection for management of burning mouth syndrome. Quintessence international (Berlin, Germany : 1985), 43(8), 695–701.