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Help for Burning Mouth Syndrome

How can alpha lipoic acid help relieve symptoms of Burning Mouth Syndrome?

Burning mouth syndrome (BMS) presents symptoms of chronic, painful burning sensations on the tongue, lips, and palate with no obvious reason. Symptoms occur during the day and may be relieved by eating or drinking. (iii.101)

BMS usually affects middle-aged and elderly women but men sometimes develop the syndrome. Although difficult to treat, clinical studies show alpha lipoic acid can provide real symptom relief for some patients. (iii.101-103)

Causes of Burning Mouth Syndrome

The causes of BMS are still vague. Experts generally classify BMS into 3 types, which may overlap: (iii.101, 104)

Table III.1: Burning Mouth Syndrome Types
Type Linked To Symptom Pattern

Type 1

Conditions such as:

Burning sensation begins hours after awakening and worsens through the day.

Type 2

(most common)

Psychological disorders such as:

Continuous symptoms from awakening through the day, with difficulty falling asleep.

Type 3

(least common)

  • Physical irritation (such as from dentures).
  • Allergic reaction to substances in vitamins or dental products.
  • Yeast or bacterial infections.

Intermittent symptoms that may be triggered by irritation.

How can alpha lipoic acid help relieve symptoms of Burning Mouth Syndrome?

Others suggest all of the above fall into a category of secondary BMS, with an identifiable cause. These experts categorize primary BMS as having no identifiable cause, but think it is likely a nervous system disorder. (iii.101, 104)

Clinical Evidence of Benefits

Studies to measure the effectiveness of alpha lipoic acid treatment for BMS have shown mixed results, but a number of clinical trials indicate that it does relieve painful symptoms. A systematic Cochrane review published in 2005 concluded that alpha lipoic acid may indeed help manage burning mouth syndrome. However, some studies published after the Cochrane review found it to be statistically no better than placebo when administered alone. (iii.102, 105-108)

Clinical Trial

Analysis of a 2015 double-blind, placebo controlled clinical trial may provide more insight into the mixed results from previous studies. Involving 60 patients with BMS, this randomized clinical trial showed that 600 mg/day of alpha lipoic acid improved BMS symptoms significantly better than placebo. (iii.103)

The researchers also attempted to figure out why some patients responded better to alpha lipoic acid treatment than others. What they found suggests that alpha lipoic acid may help some types of patients more than others: (iii.103)

Table III.11: Patient Factors Impact Treatment Effectiveness
Alpha Lipoic Acid Likely to Help Alpha Lipoic Acid Less Likely to Help

Patients with these factors:

  • Less intense symptoms.
  • None or mild to moderate depression.
  • Less than a year of symptoms.

Patients with these factors:

  • More severe pain and burning sensation.
  • Dry mouth and/or unpleasant taste sensations.
  • Taking antidepressant or anti-anxiety medication.
  • BMS associated with dental procedure.
  • Symptoms for more than 4 years.
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