New findings on chronic pain syndrome in the mouth
GOTHENBURG, Sweden: The picture is becoming clearer regarding the chronic oral pain condition known as burning mouth syndrome (BMS), which mainly affects women who are middle-aged and older. A scientist at Sahlgrenska Academy at the University of Gothenburg has reported results on dissertation work that is part of a larger research project aimed at finding a model for BMS that can facilitate diagnosis and treatment in the future.
BMS affects approximately 4 per cent of the Swedish population. The condition is characterised by a burning sensation of the oral mucosa in a person with otherwise apparently normal oral health. The tongue is most often afflicted, but the palate, lips and gingivae may also be affected. Other common symptoms include xerostomia and altered taste perception, such as a bitter or metallic flavour in the mouth.
In her doctoral dissertation on oral microbiology and immunology at the Institute of Odontology, Dr Shikha Acharya connected clinical findings and self-reported findings from questionnaires from patients with BMS about their symptoms and background (other diseases, use of medications, etc.) along with saliva-related factors. These were compared with a sex- and age-matched control group.
The researcher found that 45 per cent of the BMS patients had altered taste perception and 73 per cent experienced burning or stinging or a combination of the two, but stinging and numbness also occurred. In addition to BMS, the examination of the study participants showed a higher incidence of other types of diseases, use of more medications, proneness to bruxism and more allergies than the control group. However, more advanced analyses showed that BMS was strongly associated with self-reported skin disease and subjective oral dryness.
That the BMS patients reported that they suffered considerably more from skin disease and skin problems, compared with the control group, is a new finding. The study also found that mucin proteins in BMS patients’ saliva were altered and contained lower amounts of carbohydrate structures that affect the oral cavity’s immune system, constituting another novel finding.
“Our hope is that the new findings will contribute to the development of objective diagnostic criteria and effective individualised treatment that are both currently lacking. It’s important because the afflicted patients often feel that their surroundings and health care professionals doubt their ailment,” explained Acharya.
Acharya’s doctoral thesis, titled On Characteristics of Burning Mouth Syndrome Patients, was published on 20 August and can be obtained here.