Can You Blame Your Hormones For Your Burning Mouth?

Photographed by Tom Corbett.
Even if you've never experienced burning mouth syndrome, you can probably guess based on the name what it feels like: not great! The burning condition is still relatively mysterious, but researchers are learning more and more about the way it's linked to your hormones and, possibly, your period.
One of the few things we do know about burning mouth syndrome (a.k.a. glossodynia) is the symptom list. According to the Mayo Clinic, your tongue, gums, throat, or your entire mouth feel like they're burning or have been scalded even though you haven’t actually eaten anything spicy or drunk any boiling hot coffee recently. You might also notice feelings of dry mouth or weird differences in your sense of taste, such as having an overall metallic taste. For some people, those symptoms get worse as the day goes on or come and go throughout the day, but for others, they stay at a pretty constant level of pain.
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One unexpected clue as to what might be going on: Burning mouth syndrome can get a lot worse if you're on your period. According to the American Academy of Oral Medicine, women are up to seven times more likely than men to have burning mouth syndrome. And post-menopausal women are the most likely people to be affected, which has led some researchers to suspect that changes in estrogen and progesterone levels may be somewhat responsible for the condition.
Of course, the other time in your life when you experience a drop in those hormones is during your period. We also know those hormonal fluctuations are responsible for changes in gum tissue throughout your cycle, which can make other dental issues more likely. Due to the fact that burning mouth is rare among young women, there hasn't been much research into the severity of burning mouth symptoms throughout the menstrual cycle. But it's not totally surprising that the internet is full of patients who find their symptoms flare up during that time of the month.
Burning mouth syndrome can be difficult to diagnose because there are a bunch of other dental and medical conditions that can cause those symptoms (e.g. food allergies, thyroid issues, or tooth grinding). Essentially, the American Dental Association explains, it's only given as a diagnosis when no other cause for that burning sensation is found. So, if you have a weird burning sensation in your mouth, definitely get it checked out. It may take some trial and error, but your doctor can likely do something to help alleviate that burning feeling, such as prescribing pain relieving medications or oral rinses. But be forewarned that you may have to work long and hard with your doctor, dentist, and other medical professionals in your life to figure out exactly what's going on.
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