There are patients and situations that present themselves to the office that I think are good topics to bring up and this is one of them.  I had an 82 year old patient come in for a consultation for a lower partial denture.  During her examination I noted that her mouth was dry and the soft tissues of the mouth looked like there was something wrong.  She had sores in the cheeks and her tongue was whitish.  During exams we always look for signs of cancer or other pathology so these areas looked very suspicious so I referred her to an oral surgeon for a better diagnosis and to rule out cancer.

She was put on a mouthwash that helps with fungal infections and helps to relieve the pain by providing some numbing to the soft tissues.  She was then referred back to her physician where any systemic disorder was ruled out.  She was diagnosed with burning mouth syndrome or had a fungal infection.  Fungal infections (thrush) can take place in the mouth or even in vaginal areas of women if they have been on long term antibiotics accompanied with a dry mouth (usually from multiple medication use).

I would like to list some information about this from 2 articles published in  the  June 2012 Michigan Dental Association Journal.

What are some of the characteristics of burning mouth syndrome

Typical symptoms
It is usually a sudden onset of oral burning sensation that can have a significant negative impact on the quality of life and can have the pain similar to a toothache. It is most common in women in their 50s through 70s and is between 1%-5% of the general population.   Generally the patients are unaware of the oral burning during sleep or waking with the sensations gradually increasing to peak intensity in the late afternoon and early evening.  The onset can be related to an event such as a recent dental appointment or administration of a new medication or other personal event.  The tongue is usually the most affected followed by the lips and roof of the mouth (palate).

Burning Mouth Syndrome is very difficult to recognize and diagnose because it is usually a diagnosis of exclusion.  In other words, it is considered this if other systemic diseases or oral diseases are ruled out.  It is usually necessary for the patient to have blood tests or other laboratory tests to rule out diabetes, allergies, depression, nutritional imbalances, neuropathy, and hormonal imbalances due to menopause.  Those who have a lack of saliva function (dry mouth) usually brought on by medications or Sjogen’s syndrome are also a factor in this burning mouth syndrome. Many individuals with oral burning have had more nonspecific health complaints and more severe menopausal symptoms than healthy controls.  So in other words those who are healthy are not as affected by this compared with unhealthy women.  There is a common consensus that this is a neuropathic disease since taste can also be altered.  The nerves that give sensation to the mouth, taste to the tongue, etc. can be affected.   This means that the pain may be coming from the nerve near the surface of the affected areas such as the tongue, lips and palate.  This is why you will notice therapies that have to do with the psyche of the patient. This means that the wellbeing of the patient may affect the sensitivity of the nerves near the surface.

This Syndrome is currently being researched and there is not a single medication or therapy used to effectively treat the pain.  There are many therapies that have been tested and studies done and yet there are so many questions unanswered to address this mysterious problem.

Most of the medications used are in the form of a rinse.  This delivery system usually gets absorbed into the body through the largely vascular nature of the mouth and tongue.  This also gives the most affected area a chance to be exposed directly by the medication.  The following prescription medications are listed:

  • Clonazepam- This is in the family of medication such as valium and is used to reduce anxiety.
  • Lidocaine- This is a topical anesthetic used to numb the area to provide pain relief.
  • Capsaicin cream-This is an analgesic and is found in icy/hot.
  • Doxepin cream-This is an antidepressant
  • Nystatin rinse-This is an antifungal which helps with thrush.

There are many more systemic medications that are used to treat this elusive problem so when being treated would expect the affected patient to go through a number of medication combinations with the hope of finding the right one for them.

Therapy for depression and counseling has been helpful which helps relieve anxiety is a great place to start since this is beneficial for the entire person.

As you can see this is difficult to diagnose because of the elusive nature of the problem and difficult to treat because of the many different routes of therapy but it is important for the affected patient to know that they aren’t crazy and this real pain.  Many times if a desperate patient who has chronic pain goes from doctor to doctor without adequate help for their problem they begin to think they are making up their pain.  The truth is they are in pain and over time chronic pain can affect the person’s psyche and attitude.  This cycle of pain and depression must be broken and this is why psychotherapy can play a part in complete treatment.  Pain clinics that treat chronic pain are equipped to take care of and understand the needs of a chronic pain patient.

If you have questions or comments please call us at (586)247-3500 or email at

The Gentle Dentist Located in Macomb County, Michigan- Burning Mouth Syndrome


During oral examinations I have occasionally observed layers of tissue peeling from the lips and cheeks of certain patients.  When asking them what type of toothpaste or mouth rinse they use they will usually state that the toothpaste is a whitening or tarter control paste.  If it is a mouth rinse I will get a response that it is usually Crest Pro Health.  The ingredients in these agents are too strong for some people’s mouths and the outside layer of the cheek or lip’s skin peels off leaving layers of tissue that looks like string cheese.   If you do use one of these products and have noticed fleshy globs of material then I would recommend that you use a toothpaste that only contains fluoride without anti tarter or whitening ingredients.  If you do use a mouth rinse and the same happens to you I may recommend stopping its use and observing if this problem resolves.

This tissue peeling or sloughing is not really a serious matter since the oral tissues are one of the fastest tissues to reproduce in the body.  It can just be annoying when this takes place and should be resolved if possible.  You should note a difference within a week or after changing.

If you have any questions or concerns I would love to answer them.  You can address them to:

Ask The Gentle Dentist  15055 22 Mile #2, Shelby Twp. MI 48315, call us at (586)247-3500, fax your question to (586)247-1211 or email me at DrAntolak@TheGentleDentist.

The Gentle Dentist Discusses Soft tissue Affects from Mouth Rinses and Toothpastes in Shelby Township, Michigan

The Gentle Dentist has been an advocate of electric toothbrushes for some time now and continues to do so because of the results they show.  Electronic brushes work much more efficiently than manually handheld brushes can do.  The reason is that they vibrate and drive energy into the sulcus (under the gum) and between teeth to loosen plaque and prevent the harmful effects that these bacteria can have on the gum tissue of the mouth.  All you need to do is to position the brush in the proper angle and the brush does all the work.  This means that those who have problems with coordination can do a marvelous job in having healthy tissues.  Those who have arthritis can experience difficulty holding onto the small handle of the manual brush whereas the handle on the electronic brush is large enough to hold comfortably.

We recommend the Sonicare brush by Phillips and resell it here at The Gentle Dentist.  We believe this is the best brush available so we make it convenient for our patients and provide competitive pricing with the retail stores.  My family uses the Sonicare even though I have access to any type of brush because this is the best out there.

The Gentle Dentist in Macomb County, Michigan Recommends Electric Toothbrushes



Categories: Teeth Cleaning

I would like to consider our dental practice, The Gentle Dentist, as a leader in providing quality dental care in Shelby Township, Michigan.  I have been writing these monthly columns going on 10 years.  I do my best to keep the readership of the Senior Living News informed and up to date on dental procedures and to be a resource to you and your loved ones.  I graduated from the University of Michigan Dental School 25 years ago and have taken a multitude of continuing education courses to give me a very well rounded dental background.  With this in mind, I would consider myself as an experienced and high quality dentist in the Shelby Township area.  I am available to provide second opinions to those readers who have had some dental treatment plan proposed to them that just doesn’t seem right.  I will spend about 15-20 minutes at no charge to give you my opinion of another dentist’s proposed treatment to put you at peace.  There is no obligation with this service and have used the scenarios to gather information and insight into relevant topics to write on for future articles.

In fact, I had a patient come in the other day who had concerns that she was being over treated by her dentist.  She said that the dentist told her that she had some holes in her gold crowns and they needed to be replaced.  She had no pain and this didn’t make sense to her and because she was a long term reader she felt as if she needed this advice.  Her question to me is how do holes form in gold crowns?  I told her that her crowns were just fine and needed nothing except to brush better in the area.  To answer her question about how holes develop into crowns is that they are usually very thin on the biting surface and over a long period of time they will wear out.  Many times if this happens we will just repair  the hole in the gold crown to seal off the inside of the crown to prevent food impacting and cavities forming  in the hole.  This is usually an adequate fix especially if there aren’t any cavities around the edges of the crown. Gold is the best restorative material we have and can last decades.  Today they aren’t used much because people want tooth colored crowns and because of the cost of gold seems to make these materials a thing of the past.

If you do have questions about any proposed treatment that has been given to you or care that you aren’t satisfied with then give us a call at (586)247-3500 or email us at

Second Opinions From The Gentle Dentist in Shelby Township, Michigan



Categories: Gentle Dentist

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