What Vitamin Deficiency Causes Burning Mouth Syndrome?

Ever felt burning or soreness on your tongue, lips, gums, or other areas of your mouth out of nowhere? You may be experiencing burning mouth syndrome. Many factors could be at play, including being deficient in certain important nutrients and minerals.

For today’s piece, we’ll discuss what vitamin deficiency causes burning mouth syndrome, other factors behind it, and ways to overcome the symptoms.

What Vitamin Deficiency Causes Burning Mouth Syndrome?

Burning mouth syndrome (BMS) is a condition characterized by a burning sensation in the mouth, lips, and/or tongue.

Vitamin B12 deficiency can cause nerve damage, leading to BMS.
Iron deficiency can cause anemia and a burning sensation in the mouth.
– Other vitamins and minerals like zinc, folate, and vitamin D may also contribute to BMS.

BMS can have other causes, such as hormonal changes, stress, medications, and oral health problems.

What Is Burning Mouth Syndrome?

Burning mouth syndrome (BMS) is the medical term for the burning sensation in the mouth that comes and goes without an apparent cause. This discomfort is usually felt in the tongue, gums, lips, lining of the cheeks (buccal mucosa), and the roof of the mouth (palate). Sometimes, the sensation can be felt in the entire oral cavity area.

Unlike cold/canker sores, burning mouth syndrome doesn’t cause noticeable physical changes to the tongue or mouth. Apart from the burning sensation felt all over the mouth, other symptoms of BMS may include:

  • Dry mouth 
  • Increased thirst
  • Altering tastes in the mouth (bitter or metallic undertones)
  • Loss of taste
  • Tingling, stinging, or numbness in your mouth that comes and goes

Burning mouth syndrome usually occurs suddenly but may develop gradually over time. The specific cause, however, still can’t be determined. The burning sensations may last for months or even years. In rare cases, symptoms may suddenly disappear on their own or become less frequent. 

How the burning mouth syndrome manifests has different patterns depending on the person. 

For some, it occurs daily, with little discomfort when you wake, but gradually worsening as the day goes by. Others feel the pain starting as soon as they wake up until the day ends, while some feel it coming and going randomly.

Common Vitamin & Mineral Deficiencies Associated with Burning Mouth Syndrome

  • B Vitamin Deficiency
  • Iron Deficiency
  • Magnesium Deficiency
  • Vitamin D Deficiency
  • Zinc Deficiency

Vitamin and mineral deficiencies can cause some health issues, minor or severe. In this case, burning mouth syndrome is associated with the following deficiencies:

B-complex vitamins

B-complex vitamins, particularly vitamin B6, vitamin B9 (folate), and vitamin b12, are considered important nutritional components promoting oral health by preventing the inside and outside of the mouth from getting irritated. These vitamins help prevent cracked lips, inflammation of the tongue, and irritation inside the mouth and gums.

One study found that people lacking sufficient vitamin B12 have been noted to experience various oral manifestations like BMS, glossitis (inflammation of the tongue), dysgeusia (altering tastes), and recurrent mouth ulcers.


Iron is an important mineral for growth and development, particularly for healthy teeth and gums. 

A study claims that iron deficiency anemia is strongly linked to the occurrence of burning mouth syndrome, pale gums, and other oral health problems. Iron deficiency can also cause the appearance of sore, flaking cracks at one or both sides of the mouth. 


Magnesium plays a critical role in building strong teeth by helping the body absorb calcium, which is critical to building strong teeth and tooth enamel. It also promotes optimal oral health. 

Magnesium levels tend to drop during periods of high stress or physical exertion. One study reported that patients with BMS restricted to the tongue had lower magnesium levels compared to patients experiencing the sensations on other oral sites. 

Vitamin D

Vitamin D helps the body absorb and retain calcium and phosphorus for tooth mineralization and bone development. Studies show that vitamin D can reduce the growth of cancer cells, help prevent infections, and reduce inflammation.

Burning mouth syndrome is one of the most common signs that someone severely lacks vitamin D or doesn’t get enough of it from their diet. It also causes burning and tingling sensations in the extremities (hands, feet, and toes)


Zinc is essential for many of the body’s normal functions and systems, such as the immune system, thyroid function, and one’s ability to taste and smell. It’s often used as an ingredient for mouthwashes and kinds of toothpaste due to its important role in preventing plaque and dental calculus formation.

Zinc deficiency commonly manifests in symptoms like stomach problems, appetite loss, or stomatitis (painful mouth), though it can also cause symptoms like burning mouth syndrome and angular cheilitis on rare occasions. 

Causes of Vitamin Deficiencies

Vitamin deficiencies can be the result of one or a combination of many factors, such as: 

  • Poor diet – Unhealthy eating habits deprive the body of getting the nutrients it needs and affects the body severely – contributing to the risk of developing health problems such as being overweight or obese and poor oral health. 
  • Aging Studies show that burning mouth syndrome occurs more commonly in middle-aged and elderly women aged 50 and above, mainly those undergoing hormonal changes or suffering from psychological disorders.
  • Certain disorders Endocrine disorders, such as diabetes or underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism), tend to cause burning mouth syndrome. In diabetes, it occurs due to diabetic peripheral neuropathy and poor glycemic control.
  • Psychological factors Studies found that anxiety and depression were singled out as the most common etiological factors for burning mouth syndrome. A recent neurophysiologic study also suggests that BMS could be a peripheral and/or a central neuropathic disorder.
  • Certain medications – Taking certain medications can induce burning mouth syndrome. Studies show that such drugs include efavirenz, clonazepam, hormonal replacement therapies, fluoxetine, and sertraline. Antihypertensive agents such as captopril, enalapril, and lisinopril have also been reported to induce BMS.

Symptoms of Vitamin Deficiencies

  • Fatigue – Deficiencies in vitamin D, vitamin B, and iron often lead to fatigue, shortness of breath, and diminished physical and mental energies. 
  • Anemia – Anemia is when the body does not have enough healthy red blood cells. It’s often caused by extremely low levels of iron in the body, which is important to produce hemoglobin, the protein that gives the red color to blood and carries oxygen from the lungs to the rest of the body.
  • Numbness or tingling – Not having enough vitamin B12 and zinc can result in strange sensations, numbness, or tingling in the hands, legs, or feet due to poor blood flow in those areas
  • Cognitive problems – Not having enough zinc, vitamin B12, and vitamin D may impact one’s cognitive abilities, particularly processing speed, mental shifting, and information updating.
  • Mental health problems – Vitamin B deficiency (B1, B6, B7, B12, B complex) can cause a disruption in the nervous and circulatory system and trigger mental health problems like depression, anxiety, and mood swings.

How to Address Vitamin Deficiencies

Incorporating nutrient-rich foods into your diet

Making changes to your diet can help correct and prevent nutrient deficiencies. Be sure to include foods rich in the vitamins you aim to supplement. 

Consuming something soft and cold will help numb the burning sensation. Fruit cups, yogurt, or ice cream can help calm the burning sensation. Drinking plenty of fluids or sucking on ice chips helps ease the feeling of a dry mouth.

Avoid eating acidic and spicy foods or drinking carbonated beverages; that way, you can reduce the discomfort from burning sensations or prevent your discomfort from worsening. Avoid alcohol and products with alcohol, as they may irritate the lining of your mouth.

You can also ask a dietitian or a doctor to guide you through which foods contain the vitamins you need or even request them for a structured daily/weekly meal plan.

Taking vitamin supplements

One study shows that vitamin B and zinc supplementations can help relieve burning mouth syndrome symptoms. Additional research also showed topical capsaicin’s promise in positively treating BMS.  

Working with a healthcare provider to determine the root cause

Oral health problems compose one-third of BMS cases, so it’s best to consult your dentist first.  Otherwise, they may refer you to specialists or to your trusted physician.

Blood tests can accurately show one’s nutrient profile and pinpoint which nutrients are found lacking. Your healthcare provider may also perform the following tests to confirm a diagnosis, 

  • Allergy tests
  • Oral swab tests
  • Salivary flow test
  • Tissue biopsy

Some medications can help with burning mouth syndrome; your healthcare provider may prescribe antidepressants, anticonvulsants, nerve blockers, or painkillers. Using saliva replacement products or specific oral rinses can also help.


How can you determine if you have a vitamin deficiency?

A vitamin deficiency or nutrient test is the best way to determine if you have a deficiency. It reveals your nutrient profile and detects any nutrient deficiencies.

Either finger-prick blood tests or venous blood tests are used to collect blood samples. Using a sample collecting kit, you can even perform a finger-prick test at home.

Are there any long-term consequences of not addressing vitamin deficiencies?

Vitamin deficiencies cause negative effects on your health and put you at risk of contracting various diseases and developing chronic health conditions. In some cases, they hardly exhibit noticeable effects until you’ve had low levels for several months.

Routine health checkups can help keep you up-to-date with your health status, help you be in better shape, and rule out any health conditions. 

Can vitamin supplements help alleviate symptoms of Burning Mouth Syndrome?

Vitamin B (B12) and zinc supplements have been noted to effectively alleviate and improve BMS symptoms. 

Consult your healthcare provider first before buying a particular supplement. 

Is it possible to have Burning Mouth Syndrome without having a vitamin deficiency?

Burning mouth syndrome can also be caused by factors unrelated to vitamin deficiencies, such as acid reflux, drying mouth, hormonal changes, mouth infections, depression, or allergies.

Can Burning Mouth Syndrome be a sign of a more serious health issue?

While burning mouth syndrome is considered a benign condition, it could sometimes be an indicator of other health issues like diabetes or thyroid problems (hyperthyroidism/hypothyroidism).


Living with burning mouth syndrome can be extremely uncomfortable and negatively impact productivity and nutrition. These often occur as a result of deficiencies in nutrients like B-complex vitamins, iron, vitamin D, and zinc, though they may indicate other underlying health problems. 

Making up for insufficient vitamin levels can be achieved by a nutrient-specific healthy diet, taking vitamin supplements, and adopting better lifestyle habits.

If you feel like you have burning mouth syndrome symptoms, consult your trusted healthcare provider to seek proper treatment options. 

Disclaimer: this article does not constitute or replace medical advice. If you have an emergency or a serious medical question, please contact a medical professional or call 911 immediately. To see our full medical disclaimer, visit our Terms of Use page.

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