What does the term ‘burning tongue’ refer to? Burning tongue menopause refers to a very, very painful symptom characterised by a burning sensation in your mouth. This can include the roof of the mouth, gums, lips, and sides of the mouth, but the back two-thirds and the tip of the tongue are the most commonly affected sites.
While burning tongue syndrome occurs in both men and women, it is significantly higher in women than in men (7:1), especially women aged 50-70. It typically occurs around the menopausal time period; from approximately 3 years prior to menopause to as long as 12 years’ post-menopause.
This article provides’ an overview of what burning tongue is, why it might occur during menopause and some burning tongue remedies to give you a stronger understanding of this painful symptom and how to address it.
What Is Burning Tongue Syndrome and What are the Causes?
Burning tongue syndrome is a condition characterised by a burning sensation in the tongue and/or other mouth membrane without any identifiable oral lesions or other visible clinical causes. The most common medical term for the condition is glossodynia. The pain is often experienced on the tip of the tongue or roof of the mouth.
The sensations associated with burning tongue syndrome from menopause generally occur in several different patterns that vary in intensity and consistency. These patterns include pain that:
- Occurs every day, starting with minimal burning in the morning and increasing in pain/discomfort through the day until reaching maximum intensity in the evening
- Starts as soon as you wake, and continues all day long
- Comes and goes throughout the day, with some symptom-free days
Symptoms may suddenly disappear on their own or change in frequency, while sensations may in some individuals be temporarily relieved by eating or drinking. Regardless of the pattern, burning mouth syndrome can last anywhere from months to years, with no known precipitating factor or event prior to onset.
Studies suggest hormonal changes play a causal role in burning tongue menopause,
Other possible causes include;
- Nerve damage
- Food allergies
- Dental issues
- Poor diet and/or vitamin deficiencies
- Reflux and gastric disorders
What causes Burning Tongue?
Oestrogen is an important contributor in the production of saliva and during menopause the resulting decline in oestrogen production can result in the inability to create sufficient saliva resulting in a burning tongue or mouth. While the condition can occur in younger people, it is generally more common in women in their 40’s and older. Pain can be gradual, spontaneous or sudden, and can be related to a preceding event such as anxiety or depression.
Other causes of burning tongue, which are not necessarily linked to menopause can include:
- Allergic reaction to dentures
- Nerve damage in the tongue
- Issues with the immune system
- Allergic reaction to toothpaste or mouthwash
- High-stress levels
General Symptoms of Burning Tongue
Burning tongue symptoms will vary from woman to woman and may change both over the course of a normal day and from one day to the next. Some common symptoms include;
- A burning or ‘scalded’ sensation, most commonly affecting the tongue, but can also affect the lips, gums, palate, throat, or whole mouth
- A ‘dry mouth’ sensation with increased thirst
- Changes in taste, especially a bitter or metallic taste in the mouth
- Loss of taste
- A “draining” or “crawling” sensation in the mouth
Menopausal Burning Tongue Remedies
Links between hormonal changes and burning tongue mean some of these possible solutions are pharmacological and require consultation with a doctor for a prescription for treatment. Doctors and dentists are unable to specifically test for burning tongue making diagnosis difficult. There is also no singular treatment that will work for everyone. Possible treatments include;
- Hormone therapy, which studies suggest may help improve oral symptoms
- Nutritional supplements
- A healthy diet
- Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) to address anxiety around burning mouth syndrome
Because the precise causes of burning tongue still remain murky, many burning tongue remedies are targeted at reducing or eliminating the symptoms of this condition to improve quality of life. Some of these treatments or lifestyle changes include;
- Local and systemic analgesics (or painkillers) to target the condition and provide pain relief
- Topical agents with coating properties such as gels, ointments, and aerosols with coating properties, such as those made of chamomile and linseed
- Limiting spicy or salty foods, which can worsen symptoms
- Reducing or giving up smoking and alcohol
- Avoiding alcohol-based mouth rinses, which can exacerbate dryness and irritation, increasing symptoms
The Australian Menopause Centre Can Help
If you’re experiencing burning tongue syndrome, don’t suffer in silence, and don’t wait to get help. Talking to qualified medical practitioners can help improve your quality of life and make you feel supported and empowered while handling the challenges of menopause.