Burning mouth syndrome—a diagnostic dilemma

  • Richeal Ni RiordainEmail author
  • Sinead O’Dwyer
  • Christine McCreary
Original Article



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.


Burning mouth syndrome Diagnostic delay Presenting symptoms 


Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Informed consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.

Ethical approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.


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Copyright information

© Royal Academy of Medicine in Ireland 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Cork University Dental School and HospitalWiltonIreland
  2. 2.Eastman Dental InstituteLondonUK
  3. 3.Dublin Dental University HospitalDublinIreland

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