The B complex vitamins include eight water-soluble nutrients that support your body systems. A deficiency of one or more of the B vitamins can cause numerous, diverse symptoms, including a burning mouth. Lack of B vitamins in your diet or abnormal absorption from your intestines can lead to a deficiency. Burning mouth syndrome caused by a vitamin B deficiency typically resolves quickly when your blood levels return to normal with replenishment of the missing micronutrients.
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A deficiency of the B vitamins thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, folic acid, biotin, B-5, B-6 or B-12 can adversely affect the tissues of your mouth and tongue, leading to burning mouth syndrome and other symptoms. Deficiencies of folic acid and B-12 occur more commonly than other vitamin B deficiencies.
Your tongue and gums might appear abnormally red or pale with a vitamin B deficiency. Swelling of your gums and tongue also can occur. Eating might become difficult because of your mouth pain and significant weight loss might occur. Salty or spicy foods typically increase the burning sensation in your mouth. You might develop painful cracks in the skin at the corners of your mouth or on the surface of your tongue. Your tongue might appear smoother than normal and you might experience abnormalities in your sense of taste.
Other symptoms associated with a vitamin B deficiency include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, loss of appetite, skin rashes, weakness, muscle pain, fatigue, irritability, confusion, depression, difficulty sleeping and numbness or tingling in your hands and feet. Deficiencies in vitamin B-12, folate and B-6 commonly cause anemia, or an abnormally low red blood cell level. With severe anemia, you might experience shortness of breath and a rapid heart rate with physical exertion.
Diagnosis and Treatment
Several medical conditions can cause burning mouth symptoms. Your doctor can determine whether a vitamin B deficiency accounts for your symptoms by ordering blood tests to check your vitamin levels. Other possible causes of burning mouth syndrome include an oral yeast infection, reduced production of saliva, acid reflux disease, poorly fitting dentures and hormone imbalances. Treatment for vitamin B deficiency-related burning mouth syndrome typically involves a well-balanced diet and nutritional supplements to replenish your supply of B complex vitamins.
While you await a response to treatment, you can reduce your burning mouth symptoms with a few simple measures. Keep your mouth moist by sucking on ice chips, sipping water or chewing sugarless gum. Avoid carbonated beverages, alcohol and citrus juices, which might irritate your tongue and other oral tissues. Avoid tobacco products, salty snacks, vinegar, condiments and other acidic, salty or spicy foods that might increase your mouth pain. Cold foods might be easier to tolerate than hot foods. Milk and yogurt might help ease your mouth pain.
- "Dental Care & Oral Hygiene"; Tare Vijay, D.D.S.; 2002
- Colorado State University Extension; Water-Soluble Vitamins; Jennifer Anderson, Ph.D., et al.; August 2008
- National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research; Burning Mouth Syndrome; March 2010
- MedlinePlus; Glossitis; Linda J. Vorvick, M.D.; March 2011