Burning Mouth Success Stories

By Susan E. Sklar, M.D.
Burning mouth success stories are hard to find. The scientific journals say that “most clinicians dread” seeing patients with pain in their mouths. Why is that?  Because doctors don’t know what to do for them.  At the Sklar Center we have many burning mouth success stories.

The reason for this is Dr. Sklar’s approach with her unique approach to treatment as a holistic medicine doctor.

One of our most amazing success stories involves Shirley, a 79 year old woman who spent two years in bed crying and begging her family to take her out of pain. When I first met Shirley by video appointment, she did not speak because her mouth hurt so much. She sat slightly off camera with her head bowed and after about 20 minutes asked if she could go lie down because she was so exhausted from her pain. After six weeks of treatment, she went from needing a caregiver and walker for ambulation to walking on her own. She even attended her grandson’s wedding out of town. Now, four months after starting her Sklar Center program, she is walking for exercise regularly and playing mahjong with her friends for the first time in two years. This is the power of an integrated, functional medicine approach to treating Burning Mouth Syndrome.

How did I get into treating Burning Mouth Syndrome? I did not start off treating Burning Mouth Syndrome. In fact, until about 15 years ago, I had never heard of the disease. Very early on in my work as a functional medicine doctor, I treated a woman who was a fitness professional.  She came to see me because she was having typical menopausal symptoms of hot flashes, mood problems, weight gain–all the usual things that we see in this age group of women.  After being on our hormone restoration and balancing program for two months, she left this testimonial on my website.

“I went on a mission.” I wanted to find out what Burning Mouth Syndrome is.

She said, “I’ve noticed increased muscle definition. After two months on my hormone program, I’m sleeping better. My burning tongue is not nearly as bad. My mood swings are not as intense, and I feel great.”

Honestly, I put this testimonial up on my web site and didn’t think too much about the burning mouth part of it. But then I had people start to get in touch with me. So, I went on a mission to try to figure out what was going on. I wanted to know “What is Burning Mouth Syndrome?” “Why did a hormone program make it better?”  “And what does that mean as far as my understanding and the future treatment of this painful and life altering syndrome?”

Here are a few experiences of some of the many people I have helped with Burning Mouth Syndrome.

Polly’s success story

Polly was a patient who visited my office in mid-2008. She was an active person who played tennis regularly and was very productive in her job as an office manager for a small law firm. Over the past year she was having trouble with her molars in her lower jaw. Not happy with an ill-fitting bridge, her dentist offered her a solution:  dental implants. An X-ray revealed some thinning of the bone in her jaw. To successfully install the implants, the dentist had to start with a bone graft.

Following the bone graft, Polly started having what she described as “weird sensations”. She also began to have a burning feeling on the left side of her jaw. Over the next few months her pain spread to mouth, tongue, and the right side of her jaw. In addition, she experienced a bitter taste in her mouth.  Her dentist told her that a nerve might have been disturbed during the procedure.

She was referred to a world famous oral-facial specialist. He treated her for an entire year.  She underwent saliva and taste tests. These were non-diagnostic. MRI imaging of the head showed no abnormalities of the trigeminal nerve or blood vessels. She was prescribed tranquilizers, pain medications, anti-depressants, and some supplements. The list was long: clonazepam, gabapentin, Lyrica (pregabalin), amitriptyline, alpha lipoic acid, and zinc.

She also tried steroids which provided only temporary relief. The gabapentin helped but she felt like a zombie while taking it.  She had a follow up taste test in 2019 which was mildly abnormal. It revealed that she could feel the taste difference in the two sides of her mouth.

The burning pain worsened twice a month with the onset of her menstrual cycle.  Eventually her menstrual periods stopped in 2019.  She saw a neurologist who recommended gabapentin again. After trying it again, she found the side effects were so severe that she stopped taking it.  In June 2020, she had some decrease in her pain.

After an initial consultation, Polly was not ready to sign up for a program. I offered her BMS Advanced Support©. BMS Advanced Support© is a supplement and hormone-based combination that I developed about eight years ago. I have found that BMS Support lessens symptoms in about 25-30% of burning mouth sufferers.

BMS Advanced Support© contains healing supplements that do not require prescriptions.

Here is a list of ingredients:

DHEA (dehydroepiandrosterone): This is a hormone which functions as a neuroactive steroid that helps to rejuvenate nerves cells.

Pregnenolone: A which also functions as a neuroactive steroid that helps to rejuvenate nerves cells.

Vitamin D: This vitamin functions much like a steroid hormone even though it is called a vitamin. Vitamin D is involved in over 400 metabolic processes in the body. It is involved in the health of nerve cells and has been shown to help heal injured nerves. There is no side effect from vitamin D.

Lipoic Acid: This nutritional supplement has been shown to decrease pain and burning from burning tongue/mouth as well as other neurological conditions. It stimulates the sprouting of new nerve fibers.

Folic acid: A B vitamin. B vitamins are very important in the healthy function of nerves.

“After 3 weeks of the BMS Advanced Support©, Polly felt better, more like herself and able to cope.”

After 3 weeks of the BMS Advanced Support©, Polly felt better, more like herself and able to cope.  She had a significant decrease in her pain, but it would increase in intensity once a month. At that point, she signed up for the Burning Mouth Program. I tried some additional supplements.

During a painful once a month pain episode, I examined her at my office. This time I noticed some very tiny bumps or papules on the sides of her tongue which I thought might be herpes type 1.  I prescribed a course of valacyclovir, an ant-viral medication used for herpes. That one treatment along with continuing the BMS Advanced Support did the trick.

She told me “Burning Mouth Syndrome was a nightmare for me. I was in a dark place and now I am on the other side.”

Mary, another burning mouth success story

Mary is a 58-year-old retired speech pathologist referred to me by her dentist who had seen my Burning Mouth presentation a few months prior at the American Dental Association annual conference.  Her symptoms consisted of her tongue, palate, and throat feeling as if they were constantly on fire.

Salads were difficult to eat.  Pepper and vinegar were extremely irritating.  Her symptoms began one year prior. She had seen a dentist and ENT specialist without relief. She had migraine headaches, fatigue, and severe stress due to ongoing divorce proceedings.  She also had a history of breast cancer. After initial testing and with the agreement of her oncologist, she stared bio-identical hormone therapy. This consisted of estriol and testosterone creams, oral progesterone, DHEA, pregnenolone, bioidentical triiodothyronine, the active thyroid hormone (T3). She would also continue her already prescribed levothyroxine (T4) and Vitamin D3.

“Feeling better, Mary ate Thanksgiving dinner with her family and was able to enjoy the holiday for the first time in a long while.”

After two months, her burning symptoms had decreased. It was easier for her to eat raw vegetables and apples. A few months later, her marital situation became more stressful. Despite the fact she was experiencing severe anxiety, mouth burning stayed at the same level. A big change happened after six months. She was able to eat a balsamic vinaigrette dressing on her salad for the first time in a year and half.  In addition, she also was able to eat fresh pineapple and pepper which she had not been able to do previously. Remarkably, for the first time in a year and a half, Mary was able to eat out in restaurants on a regular basis.

After eleven months, she rated her Burning Mouth Syndrome severity as 3/10 where initially it had been 8-9/10. Feeling better, Mary ate Thanksgiving dinner with her family and was able to enjoy the holiday for the first time in a long while. She felt like she was living her life and enjoying her life again.  It is now 8 years after her initial treatment, she continues to have good relief of her Burning Mouth Syndrome with mild symptoms that she is aware of only occasionally.

Anne: burning mouth and menopause

Another Burning mouth success story is Anne.  Anne is a mother of twin boys. When I first met with her, she was 52 and her boys were seven years old. She felt stressed being an older mother of two active children. In addition, Anne was overwhelmed caring for the twins, both of whom at the time had bed wetting and learning disabilities. She felt anxious almost all the time. Sometimes she was so anxious she was unable to leave her house.

At 52 she also had symptoms of menopause. Her complaints were hot flashes, insomnia, and fatigue. The most pressing problem, however, was Burning Mouth Syndrome. She had severe burning of the tongue and roof of the mouth along with taste alterations. Everything she ate had a metallic taste. Almost every night, the pain kept her awake.

“When her burning mouth pain was under control, her anxiety was manageable.”

Like so many burning mouth patients, she had seen a dentist, oral surgeon, and allergy specialist, all without help.  After initial laboratory testing, she was started on a program of hormone restoration and balancing.  She started a low dose bioidentical estrogen cream, as well as bio-identical progesterone and testosterone.

I added supplements to enhance and balance her hormones. Within the first month of a hormone restoration program, her Burning Mouth Syndrome was significantly better. By the end of three months, her pain was reduced by 90%.

I also suggested to Anne that gentle yoga or mindful meditation would help the anxiety. When her burning mouth pain was under control, her anxiety was manageable. She was no longer anxious all the time and was able to cope with raising rambunctious twins more easily. This was another Burning Mouth Syndrome success story.

Jill’s Story

When I first met Jill, she was a 51-year-old fitness professional with menopausal symptoms of hot flashes, mood swings, and loss of muscle tone. She noticed that her sex drive has decreased. Decreased is an understatement–it was nonexistent. Another concern was weight gain especially around her abdomen.

In addition, she had symptoms of burning on her tongue and lips.  Her pain was moderate and did not interfere with sleep, but prevented her from eating a variety of fruits, vegetables, and spices that she had previously enjoyed. I began with a detailed history and physical exam. I also ordered initial hormone blood testing.

The results of the blood tests showed that Jill was definitely beginning menopause. The loss of estrogen, progesterone and testosterone was causing all these symptoms including loss of libido.  A regimen of safe bioidentical hormones was prescribed.   After two months on this regimen she gave the following testimonial:

“I’ve noticed increased muscle definition after two months on my hormone program.  I’m sleeping better.  My burning tongue is not nearly as bad.  My mood swings are not as intense.  I feel great.”

Her burning mouth symptoms continued at a low level until marital stress occurred. Unfortunately, her marriage could not be saved, and divorce proceedings took place. The stress of the divorce caused her burning mouth pain to increase.

Because stress depletes important nutrients, I started her on the strong antioxidant alpha-lipoic acid. Jill also began counseling and was able to get relief from the burning mouth pain. After she was able to put her life back together, she remained on her hormone balancing program. Consequently, I was able to maintain her burning mouth symptoms at a low level.

Kathy: burning mouth and stress

Kathy is a 73-year-old woman who had retired from a high stress position as a television news producer. She looked forward to visiting with her grandchildren, gardening, and generally enjoying life.

About a year into her retirement, her burning mouth problem began after a root canal procedure. Over time her burning mouth symptoms became worse and worse. She experienced constant pain, covering her entire tongue and inner lips. In addition, the pain did not improve at all throughout the day.

She tried an elimination diet but found that stopping dairy, gluten, fruit, and coffee did not help. Using Tabasco four times a day provided brief relief. For the first time in her life, she began to become anxious and depressed.

She tried using CBD oil which did not relieve her pain but helped to calm her anxiety. She had seen a dentist, neurologist, oral surgeon, and a pathologist. Lorazepam was prescribed. This is a sedative, but she actually experienced increased anxiety on it. She also tried gabapentin without success. The neurologist prescribed amitriptyline which caused uncontrollable sobbing. Acupuncture helped her psychological state causing a slight decrease in pain but only during the actual procedure. She was feeling depressed and depleted.  Sometimes she even felt suicidal.

“Low dose Naltrexone reduces symptoms in many pain conditions.  So why not Burning Mouth Syndrome?”

By this time Kathy was pretty desperate. She found the Sklar Center while surfing the world wide web looking for help. After her evaluation and testing I started her on a hormone restoration and balancing program. The program consists of thyroid medication, estrogen and testosterone creams, DHEA, pregnenolone, Vitamin D with Vitamin K 2, progesterone and melatonin.

Four months after starting the hormone program, her burning began to decrease. The pain had decreased from a 10/10 to 7/10.  She also felt better emotionally and felt that she had increased ability to handle stressful situations.

We decided to consider using naltrexone.  In high doses, it is used to counteract the effects of opioid narcotics and prevent overdoses. It is a life saver for heroin and oxycontin overdoses. In a low dose form, naltrexone is anti-inflammatory and helps the body release our own natural pain relievers, called endogenous opioids. Low dose naltrexone reduces symptoms in many pain conditions such as fibromyalgia, Crohn’s disease, and multiple sclerosis. So why not Burning Mouth Syndrome?

Low dose naltrexone was started at this point, in addition to her hormone balancing program. After three weeks on low dose Naltrexone, her pain decreased further to 5/10 and some days down to 2/10.  At our last meeting she said, “All good news, Dr. Sklar. Thank you for prescribing this.”

Thank you for learning how you can become another burning mouth success story.

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