Burning Mouth Syndrome (BMS) is a chronic health condition that involves a burning pain in the mouth. It is very uncomfortable, with numbness also a common feature of the condition.
BMS is a condition that has no clear treatment in place. Therefore, any attempts to research BMS is greatly encouraged by both scientists and those who suffer from it.
Recent research has looked into the idea that Capsaicin – a chemical compound that is naturally found in chilli peppers – could be used as a treatment.
Capsaicin can awaken certain receptors in the body which are linked to the pain and temperature signals . With BMS involving both pain and temperature, this makes capsaicin have the potential to be an effective part of treatment.
What is Burning Mouth Syndrome?
BMS typically involves a burning sensation in the mouth . The sensation can often last for several months. Interestingly, it cannot be explained by a medical or dental condition or ailment.
BMS often causes confusion among health professionals. This is because of the disparity between the intensity of the pain and the lack of clinical signs of the disease. Therefore, it is a syndrome that relies on the patient providing details of their symptoms .
Research has found that the condition is more common in women than men . However, anyone is capable of having BMS.
The Existing Research
A research team from the University of Oslo has looked into using capsaicin as a treatment for BMS. Their work will soon be published in the European Journal of Neuroscience .
The research team pointed out that as a starting point, health professionals need to investigate and exclude other potential causes of the burning pain . They reason that dental treatments or even some medications have the potential to cause these issues.
Moreover, they also stated that prior to any treatment, health professionals need to work out if the pain originates from systemic causes – which involves issues affecting the entire body, or peripheral causes – which involves conditions affecting the mouth .
To confirm this, the research team examined existing brain scans of patients with BMS . Interestingly, they detected pathology in the pain matrix in the brain. Therefore, this indicated that patients with BMS have cerebral neuropathy in the area of their pain .
The researchers also asserted that existing treatments have proven ineffective. These treatments include medicines like antidepressants, antioxidants, benzodiazepines, and gabapentin among others .
Recently, the authors noted that one remedy that has proven somewhat effective is alpha-lipoic acid – an antioxidant . The authors noted that although 60% of patients responded well to this approach, 40% didn’t .
But the research team noted that capsaicin gel has proven to be effective in some other countries – especially in those that have not responded to alpha-lipoic acid. However, capsaicin gel is not readily available in Norway .
Therefore, the research team hope to create a substance that could deliver the required concentration of capsaicin into a gel.
But they noted that there is an issue where saliva often washes away capsaicin. Moreover, they also said that when the tongue moves, this also causes the capsaicin to dissolve .
As a result, they are looking to develop a “carrier” – which would be capable of keeping capsaicin in place in the mouth . The carrier would need to be able to withstand saliva in the mouth.
Finding a “carrier”
Ahead of the publication of the research, the authors made some comments on the situation. Associate Professor Preet Bano Singh was among those to comment .
Singh noted that there “has been so little research on BMS”, meaning that patients “often feel dismissed, with their complaints being trivialized” . This can cause further discomfort for patients, resulting in them experiencing “despair”, according to Singh .
While there is much work to be done on developing a capsaicin substance that can withstand saliva in the mouth, the authors hope this will be possible and that it will result in more effective treatments.
The researchers concluded that in the future, “the goal is to develop a new method for delivering capsaicin to the mouth that provides longer duration and better effectiveness” .
However, they also note that “before such a treatment strategy can be implemented, it must be investigated whether the new carrier is safe for the cells in the mouth” .
There is a lot of further research that needs to be done. But by analyzing the possibilities of capsaicin gel, the researchers have made a positive start. They will hope further research can take place into the future to try and find a carrier.
 It is concerning how many physical health conditions are linked to oral health conditions and vice versa. This underlines how important it is for us to look after our oral health. A great way of doing this is to attend regular dental check-ups, so that any problems can be identified. We recommend booking an appointment now!
 Capsaicin seemingly has the potential to help with BMS. This information may be of particular interest to those with the condition. If you know anyone with BMS, we recommend sharing this article with them, as it could give them an idea on how to treat the condition. Why not share this article now!
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We advise our patients to attend our Calgary dental clinic at least twice per year for a regular dental check-up. At these check-ups, we provide a comprehensive review of a patient’s oral health. If any problems are detected, we have many treatments available. For example, these include cavity fillings and root canals. To strengthen your oral health, we recommend brushing your teeth at least twice a day and flossing regularly.
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 University of Oslo. (2023). Capsaicin Drops – A New Strategy for Treating Burning Mouth Syndrome. Available: https://www.odont.uio.no/english/research/news/2023/capsaicin-drops—a-new-strategy-for-treating-burn.html. Last accessed: 16th September 2023.
 NHS. (2011). Burning Mouth Syndrome. Available: https://www.ouh.nhs.uk/patient-guide/leaflets/files/110407burningmouth.pdf. Last accessed: 16th September 2023.