Is burning mouth more common in certain people?

Burning mouth is more common in postmenopausal women. It is likely related to reduced estrogen levels, which causes the decline in the sensitivity of the taste buds. Occasionally, men or young people develop this problem; usually they have another condition called geographic tongue. This is a benign (mild, of no danger to health) condition in which red patches appear on the tongue surface and move from site to site.

Another factor seems to complicate the issue. There is an apparent difference in people’s ability to taste based on genetic factors. Some people are "nontasters," some are medium "tasters," and some are super "tasters." For the super tasters, flavors are much more intense compared with other types of "tasters." Women are much more likely than men to be super tasters; but even so, few women are super tasters.

Most burning tongue sufferers are women who were once super tasters and have now lost taste sensation. Strangely, it has been noticed that many of these women are also teeth clenchers. It is thought that pressure on the teeth worsens the burning sensation.

Certain medical problems are also associated with burning mouth. Occasionally, people with Sjögren’s Syndrome (rheumatoid arthritis, dry mouth, and dry eyes), diabetes, thyroid disease, and liver problems have burning mouth. Sometimes patients treated for hypertension with ACE inhibitors develop burning tongue. Even after stopping the medication, the pain may continue if it is not treated.

Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 07/29/2019.

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