What is the role of salivation in burning mouth syndrome (BMS)?

Updated: Apr 15, 2021
  • Author: Vincent D Eusterman, MD, DDS; Chief Editor: Arlen D Meyers, MD, MBA  more...
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Mechanical and gustatory stimuli incite parotid, submandibular, and sublingual salivary flow. In particular, stimulation to the anterior tongue is effective in activating submandibular and sublingual glands, while posterior lingual stimulation is more effective at engaging parotid flow. Ions present in saliva, particularly sodium, produce continual low-level stimulation of taste receptors.

In theory, the content of saliva may affect sensitivity of taste receptors. This may explain how medications and metabolic conditions alter taste perception (dysgeusia) or produce novel tastes, such as bitter or metallic tastes in the mouth (parageusia.) Acute decreases in the quantity of saliva do not appear to affect gustatory sensitivity; however, chronic deprivation (as in Sjögren Syndrome or after radiation therapy) does appear to result in decreased sensitivity of receptors by trophic effects.

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