Psychology as a risk factor for burning mouth syndrome

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Geographic tongue disease in a young child.

The term of Burning Mouth Syndrome (BMS) may still sound strange to the public’s ears, but the symptoms are widespread. This chronic condition is characterized by a burning sensation in the mouth area, especially on the tongue and occurs more frequently in women (with a ratio of 7: 1). Burning Mouth Syndrome is usually experienced by people aged around 40-80 years and occurs without an exact cause. Various factors can trigger this burning sensation in the oral cavity. In some literature states that psychological factors can also influence the occurrence of this condition.

Although it has an uncertain cause, BMS is associated with psychological factors. The aetiology of BMS itself is unknown, but several factors can trigger the emergence of BMS. Most BMS is often associated with individual psychological factors. Psychological factors such as depression, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and psychosocial stressors. Several cases of BMS have been reported to be closely related to psychological disorders.

In a study conducted by das Neves de Araujo Lima et al (2016), it was found that 40% of BMS sufferers have high-stress levels. Then 53.1% of BMS sufferers experienced mild to moderate depression. Under the theory by Kenchadze et al. (2013) that BMS is not only a stomatognathic problem. However, it is a psychosomatic problem and often found in elderly patients with symptoms of depression, anxiety, somatic and obsessive symptoms.

BMS sufferers tend to be aggravated by individual psychological conditions such as persistent anxiety, depressive conditions that can increase or decrease nerve transmission from peripheral pain receptors and alter individual perceptions of pain, reduce pain thresholds. Thus, regular stimulation should be considered pain. This condition causes several nerve dysfunctions associated with pain in BMS.

Downregulation of central dopaminergic pain inhibiting pathways also has a role in the pathogenesis of BMS, particularly in people with anxiety or depression, both of which are associated with dysregulation of the dopaminergic pain inhibiting pathway.

The treatment can be done with a mouthwash product that contains pain relievers to stop the burning sensation. If it is related to psychological conditions, it is necessary to know about what causes increased stress. Psychological disorders in individuals may have an important role to play in triggering and exacerbating BMS conditions. Therefore, efforts are needed to eliminate or minimize psychological disorders in people with BMS.

Author: Aisyah Rachmadhani PG, Aulia Ramadhani


Biochem. Cell. Arch. Vol. 20, Supplement 1, pp. 2833-2835, 2020

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