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Glossitis

Tongue inflammation; Tongue infection; Smooth tongue; Glossodynia; Burning tongue syndrome

Glossitis is a problem in which the tongue is swollen and inflamed. This often makes the surface of the tongue appear smooth. Geographic tongue is a type of glossitis.

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Tongue

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Causes

Glossitis is often a symptom of other conditions, such as:

At times, glossitis may be passed down in families.

Symptoms

Symptoms of glossitis may come on quickly or develop over time. They include:

Rare symptoms or problems include:

Exams and Tests

Your dentist or health care provider will do an exam to look for:

The provider may ask questions about your health history and lifestyle to help discover the cause of tongue inflammation.

You may need blood tests to rule out other medical problems.

Treatment

The goal of treatment is to reduce swelling and soreness. Most people do not need to go to the hospital unless the tongue is very swollen. Treatment may include:

Outlook (Prognosis)

Glossitis goes away if the cause of problem is removed or treated.

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Call your provider if:

Get emergency care right away if tongue swelling blocks the airway.

Prevention

Good oral care (thorough tooth brushing and flossing and regular dental checkups) may help prevent glossitis.

Related Information

Acute
Chronic
Geographic tongue
Iron deficiency anemia
Pernicious anemia
Lichen planus
Erythema multiforme
Canker sore
Pemphigus vulgaris

References

Daniels TE, Jordan RC. Diseases of the mouth and salivary glands. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman-Cecil Medicine. 25th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2016:chap 425.

Mirowski GW, Leblanc J, Mark LA. Oral disease and oral-cutaneous manifestations of gastrointestinal and liver disease. In: Feldman M, Friedman LS, Brandt LJ, eds. Sleisenger and Fordtran's Gastrointestinal and Liver Disease: Pathophysiology/Diagnosis/Management. 10th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2016:chap 24.

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Review Date: 2/27/2019  

Reviewed By: Josef Shargorodsky, MD, MPH, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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