Prevalence of burning mouth syndrome


Burning mouth syndrome has been defined as a chronic intraoral burning sensation that has no identifiable cause either local or systemic condition or disease by the International Association for the Study of Pain.  Burning mouth syndrome has a long disease course and mainly affects menopausal or postmenopausal women and primarily affects the tongue and palate with accompanying xerostomia and taste changes that impacts on daily activity. The prevalence of Burning mouth syndrome has been reported to range from 0.7% to 15% in different settings.

The aim of this review was to evaluate the worldwide prevalence and epidemiology profile of burning mouth syndrome.


Searches were conducted In the Cochrane Library, PubMed, Embase, Web of Science, China National Knowledge Infrastructure and Wanfang databases. Studies assessing prevalence of burning mouth syndrome and the epidemiology profile of BMS among different settings published in English or Chinese were considered.   Two reviewers independently selected studies extracted data and assessed study quality using the Joanna Briggs Institute checklist for prevalence studies. Meta—analysis was carried out together with sub-group analysis for continent, age and gender.


  • 18 studies were included, 9 reporting on prevalence and 9 clinical based studies.
  • Pooled prevalence estimates are shown in the table.
Estimated prevalence (95%CI)
Population-based studies Clinical-based studies
Overall 1.73% (0.176–0.351) 7.72% (0.434–0.691)
Asia 1.05% (0.082–0.327) 8.96% (0.459–0.758)
Europe 5.58% (0.297–0.656) 6.46% (0.215–0.814)
Female 1.15% (0.094–0.336) 11.28% (0.463–0.907
Male 0.38% (0.045–0.200) 3.75% (0.252– 0.528)
Patients over 50yrs of age 3.31% (0.043–0.689) N/A
Patients under 50yrs of age 1.92% (0.134–0.423) N/A


The authors concluded: –

The pooled prevalence of BMS was relatively high both in general population and clinical patients, confirming that merits attention of dental and healthcare professionals. Moreover, the results showed that the prevalence of BMS was varied in different regions, higher in female than male and higher in people over the age of 50. More high-quality, extensive, and using uniformed diagnostic criteria epidemiological surveys of BMS are needed, to determine the global prevalence of BMS more accurately.


The authors have used a good range of databases to identify studies although limiting the inclusion to publication in English and Chinese may have excluded some relevant studies. The data show higher prevalence rates from the clinically based studies which is unsurprising given they mainly included patients attending oral medicine, oral pathology and maxillofacial surgery clinics. Estimated prevalence data are reported in the results section but how they related to the forest plots presented is unclear.  The authors highlight the criteria for diagnosis of burning mouth syndrome as a key challenge as this has evolved over time and may be an issue when assessing general population prevalence so as indicated by the authors the pooled prevalence estimates reported in this review should be used cautiously.


Primary Paper

Wu S, Zhang W, Yan J, Noma N, Young A, Yan Z. Worldwide prevalence estimates of burning mouth syndrome: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Oral Dis. 2021 Apr 5. doi: 10.1111/odi.13868. Epub ahead of print. PMID: 33818878.

Review protocol on PROSPERO

Other references

Dental Elf – Burning Mouth Syndrome blogs

Picture Credits

Photo by engin akyurt on Unsplash



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Derek Richards

Derek Richards is a specialist in dental public health, Director of the Centre for Evidence-Based Dentistry and Specialist Advisor to the Scottish Dental Clinical Effectiveness Programme (SDCEP) Development Team. A former editor of the Evidence-Based Dentistry Journal and chief blogger for the Dental Elf website until December 2023. Derek has been involved with a wide range of evidence-based initiatives both nationally and internationally since 1994. Derek retired from the NHS in 2019 remaining as a part-time senior lecturer at Dundee Dental School until the end of 2023.

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