I have suffered from Burning Mouth Syndrome (BMS) since 2008. Yes, I am in my 12th year of chronic pain and there is no end in sight.
If you have read any of this blog, you have an idea of the incredible amount of testing, medicines, and specialists I have run through and you know that I left no stone unturned in searching for a cause, a treatment, a cure, or what I settled for eventually…a diagnosis.
You may be a sufferer, whether Primary BMS (no underlying illness), Secondary BMS (burning due to other illness or treatments), a myriad of other chronic neuropathy illnesses, or you may care for someone who is suffering.
Have you noticed that they often do not talk about it? When you ask how they are, the answer you often get is, “Fine.” This is not untypical. There is something about the sheer persistence of a chronic pain syndrome that makes many of us go underground.
Let’s talk about that.
When we go underground with our pain, we do some potentially destructive things.
- We deny our knowledge to the community around us. Whether it is facts about our illness, coping strategies that may help someone else, or helping to define the aspects of our illness that may intrigue researchers, attract funding, and perhaps lead to diagnostic tools, treatment, or a cure; it is all valuable.
- We withdraw from the people who care for us, and without proactive communication, we can irreparably damage relationships that could be of vital support.
- We discount our importance in the world. Never thought about it that way? You aren’t alone. We feel that we are putting a burden on others when we talk about our pain or we think we are whining when we acknowledge to others that.”No, it hasn’t gone away. I have just gotten better at pasting a smile on my face.” How would you feel if someone you loved hid that very important knowledge or those feelings from you?
Something to chew on, don’t you think?
I have gradually synced my neurologist appointments with my eleven anniversaries of BMS membership.
Each Mother’s Day ticks off another year with Burning Mouth Syndrome and I once again experience the joy of celebrating those lovely young women who are my daughters with the sadness that comes with another year of no cure in sight.
I saw my neurologist this week, and there was really nothing new to try so I will continue with my Klonopin/Clonazepam ODT and will keep dealing with the drowsiness side effect it brings.
But no pity party for me this year. Instead, I am focusing on the pain in my life that has been relieved successfully (Migraines practically cured by Aimovig), and some recent studies that indicate that a few researchers around the world are looking at our mysterious syndrome and finding some clues. The Burning Mouth Syndrome Support website just posted a link to a recent article from Scientific Reports titled “Proteomic profiling of whole-saliva reveals a correlation between Burning Mouth Syndrome and the neurotrophin signaling pathway.”
That’s a mouthful, isn’t it? You can read the entire report, along with many other articles, study reports, and abstracts at BMS-Research.
The scientific report article is dense, full of med-talk, science-talk, and many other things that sail over the heads of non-professionals but here is the main idea. Guy Krief, Yaron Haviv, Omer Deutsch, Naama Keshet, Galit Almoznino, Batia Zacks, Aaron Palmon, & Doron J.Aframian wanted to do profiling and bioinformatic analyses of whole-saliva (WS) from BMS patients compared to WS from healthy individuals. Continue reading
If you have found this blog, you are probably a Burning Mouth Syndrome sufferer or know someone who is. Perhaps you are someone who only suspects you have BMS and what you have read on the Internet so far is scary, disheartening, and often filled with errors and speculation. Let me set your mind at rest about several things…some will still be disheartening, but that is the reality of this under-diagnosed and often baffling chronic pain.
Burning Mouth Syndrome will not kill you. It is not fatal in itself, but unless people find coping strategies, medicines, and support, it can be as dangerous as any other chronic pain condition. If you don’t get medical treatment and support, chronic pain can lead to depression and even self-harm.
The hallmark of BMS is diffuse burning in the mouth and tongue with no visible symptoms. This means if you have lesions, cracked or geographic tongue, discoloration of the tongue or oral cavity or any other visible symptom…you may be barking up the wrong tree. It is possible to have Burning Mouth Syndrome that is caused by underlying conditions, and you will always do better if you treat those ailments first. Your BMS pain may simply disappear, and wouldn’t that be great? Continue reading
A recent literature review article stated researchers were connecting eugenol and other dental pain relievers, nerve injections, and possible damage to the lingual nerve with Burning Mouth Syndrome. Take a look and see what you think, but I have long suspected a link between dental work, oral surgery, and eventual extraction of my front teeth to the resultant burning mouth pain I have suffered for over a decade.
This is not, of course, the only cause possible. There are many people with BMS who have not had dental work done near the time of onset and so other factors must be in play.
When I read this, I looked up eugenol because I had never heard of it. To my surprise, I found it is found in clove oil, cinnamon, nutmeg, and bay leaf but by far the most common use of it is in dental work. When eugenol is used in dental preparations such as surgical pastes, dental packing, and dental cement, it may cause contact stomatitis (cutaneous lesions) and allergic cheilitis (inflammation of the lips). The allergy can be discovered via a patch test.
I do not recall ever having an allergy patch test done by any of my dentists or other specialists. If you suspect it might be a culprit in your BMS, it is worth asking about. Continue reading
I have read quite a bit about this mysterious pain syndrome that has affected over ten years of my life and recently I read a review from the Cochrane Library site that clarified something for me. Here, see what you think.
Given BMS’ potentially disabling nature, the need to identify effective modes of treatment for sufferers is vital. Due to the limited number of clinical trials at low risk of bias, there is insufficient evidence to support or refute the use of any interventions in managing BMS. Further clinical trials, with improved methodology and standardized outcome sets, are required in order to establish which treatments are effective. Future studies are encouraged to assess the role of treatments used in other neuropathic pain conditions and psychological therapies in the treatment of BMS.”
In all of my reading, the low numbers involved in various studies have given me pause, but the Cochrane Library actually considers many studies to contain bias in the study structure. Not to mention, of course, there just aren’t that many of them.
It is no wonder that little progress has been made in even the very first step our Burning Mouth Journeys…diagnosis.
I don’t mean to lower your spirits or hope. We should have both, but unlike other neuropathic pain syndromes that have celebrity spokespeople, foundations or nonprofits to raise money for research, or even a decent percentage of name recognition in the medical community, Burning Mouth Syndrome has none of these. We only have a website that posts credible, updated information after review and coping strategies because volunteers pay for and maintain it. We only have Facebook support groups (some more evidence-based than others) because volunteers have created and donate their time and energy to fostering them.
What can we do about this? Here’s one suggestion that will be easy for some and very difficult for others.
Talk About It.
Take the time to explain what you know about Burning Mouth Syndrome to your friends, your family, your Facebook, Instagram, or other social media circles, and raise awareness. I have lost count of the doctors, specialists, friends, and colleagues I have educated about this chronic pain and I know there will be many more. You never know when that casual conversation you have with someone about BMS may turn into a critical contact that will lead a researcher to this particular disease, encourage another sufferer you don’t even know, or simply erase one more blank stare in the general population as they discover someone they know, or maybe even love, deals with BMS and just never talked about it with them.
Try it, and let me know how it goes. As it stands, we have nothing to lose.
The day I have feared for so long has arrived.
I recently lost a crown on a lower molar that had a root canal so many years ago I don’t even remember which dentist or endodontist did it. However, he did not do it well and now I am looking at having to undergo a second root canal on it before my present dentist will put a new crown on it. In order to take advantage of the dental insurance we have through my husband’s job, that root canal will have to happen this year.
I know many of you out there lack that luxury and I am sorry. Even with insurance, the temporary crown was not covered and cost over $500. I know there are families out there who do not have that to spare, and their decision might have been to continue to suffer and end up with a tooth extraction eventually. But beyond the cost element, for those of us who suffer from Burning Mouth Syndrome, we know there will be yet another price to pay.
Dental work can cause flare-ups of our burning that can last weeks, months, or even years. Continue reading
A friend shared this image today on her Facebook page.
It caught my eye because as chronic pain sufferers, we get asked about our pain level all of the time by a variety of specialists. Burning Mouth Syndrome is a novelty to some doctors we encounter, and a pain chart helps to accurately convey the level of pain you experience and how it affects or inhibits your daily activities. Often it is a range, and with BMS, this is particularly true because our pain escalates throughout the day unless we find coping strategies or medicine that provides some intervention.
This “improved” version adds a bit of humor to the pain scale (bees, bears and ninjas?), but also makes the point that if you are truly at the top-level of pain (10 is the top!) then you are incapacitated or have been rendered unconscious by the level of pain and medical intervention is required immediately.
I was surprised by the comments that accompanied the image. Some laughed, but others were angry, feeling that the image was mocking their pain. Some even took the scale to task for not having enough numbers, because their pain was “at least an 11 or 12!” Others berated the creator for not including labor, even though that is a pain that only affects one gender.
Pain is affected by many factors, and each person’s tolerance and perception is individual but we must be consistent and coherent when talking about our pain levels with medical professionals. Some of the comments came from people in the medical profession and they gently mocked people who claimed they were experiencing a 10 level of pain but were “casually talking on their phone and eating chips.” Continue reading
Perspective, priorities, and progress.
They are all connected for the chronic pain sufferer and can affect us both positively and negatively. The powerful thing about this dynamic is that unlike many things we are enduring, we can make a choice.
Your perspective is how you view yourself in relation to your condition.
Are you blaming yourself, whether logically or illogically for your pain? Many people think, “If only I hadn’t done this, or that, things would be different.”
I did this myself in the beginning, actually having dreams about saying no to replacing the caps on my front teeth. Saying no to the endodontist who cracked the root, the oral surgeon who did an unsuccessful apicoectomy, the antibiotics I had to take…oh Lord, it goes on and on. Continue reading
“Anger can be grief unexpressed.”
I read that somewhere recently and thought, “Wow, I never really thought about it that way.”
I knew that anger is often linked to fear, but didn’t intuitively link it to grief. Most of us know that anger is a stage of grieving before you reach acceptance, but what if you or a friend or family member simply gets stuck there. Is there an appropriate time limit to mourning?
The answer is no.
Those of us who deal with the chronic pain of Burning Mouth Syndrome may go through successive cycles of grief. We grieve that we hurt and don’t know why. Then we grieve the myriad ways our lives have been changed or our activities hampered by pain. Then we grieve that we cannot talk about our pain because it has gone on so long that we feel we are burdening others when we speak of it. That’s a lot of grief, my friends, and I know you have experienced many different and sometimes difficult reactions from your family and friends over the years.
I recently saw a lovely video about helping your grieving loved ones and knew I had to share it with you. Continue reading