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Oral Diseases and Disorders


Altered Sensations of the Mouth

What are altered sensations of the mouth?

Altered sensations of the mouth may include burning, tingling or “pins and needles”, numbness, soreness, discomfort, and taste changes. The mouth may feel dry without signs of lack of saliva, or there may be a feeling of difficulty swallowing.

What causes altered sensations of the mouth?

There are many possible reasons for a burning sensation, soreness, dryness, or taste changes in the mouth.

Some factors that may be associated with these conditions include:

  • Infective conditions such as oral candidosis (thrush)

  • Traumatic causes such as damage to tongue buds (papillae)

  • As a result of a salivary gland disorder or autoimmune condition such as Sjögren’s Syndrome

  • Oral mucosal diseases such as oral lichen planus

  • Metabolic issues

  • Medication related adverse effects

  • Allergies including reaction to dental materials or dentures

  • Dehydration

  • Gastroesophageal reflux disease

  • Systemic blood disorders

  • Central nervous system disorders

  • Idiopathic, which means no cause is found. This is sometimes known as Burning Mouth Syndrome, Oral Dysaesthesia or Complex Oral Sensitivity Disorder.


Signs and Symptoms

Some people experience a burning sensation in the mouth, or taste changes. Besides a burning sensation, other sensations such as tingling, numbness, soreness and discomfort may be felt. There may be associated symptoms, or the only symptoms may be dryness of the mouth and altered taste. A metallic or bitter taste is commonly described.

The onset of these symptoms may be spontaneous, or there may be a factor which triggers the sensations. The intensity may range from mild to severe.

How are altered sensations of the mouth diagnosed?

The Clinicians at Perth Oral Medicine & Dental Sleep Centre are experienced with diagnosing and managing oral burning, oral soreness and taste changes.  Because there are so many possible reasons for oral burning, careful attention and expertise are needed to rule out possible conditions and any contributing factors.

Your Clinician will undertake a thorough history and a clinical examination, and investigations such as blood tests, special tests and imaging may be undertaken.


How are altered sensations of the mouth treated?

The diagnosis of oral burning, oral soreness and taste changes is not always straightforward, and that is why it is important to see someone experienced in these conditions. The management options are varied and depend on the cause of the symptoms.  Management may include topical or systemic medication. Other management strategies include the use of low level laser therapy in selected cases.


Most patients will experience a reduction of their symptoms with appropriate treatment. Some may achieve complete resolution with medications. Sometimes, different medications or management options will be trialled to find the best fit for our patients.

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