Friday, May 22, 2015

Table of Contents


Glossitis is a condition in which the tongue is swollen and changes color, often making the surface of the tongue appear smooth.

See also: Geographic tongue

Alternative Names

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

Causes, incidence, and risk factors

Glossitis is often a symptom of other conditions or problems, including:

  • Allergic reaction to toothpaste, mouthwash, breath fresheners, dyes in candy, plastic in dentures or retainers, or certain blood pressure medications (ACE inhibitors)
  • Dry mouth, when the glands that produce saliva are destroyed (see: Sjogren syndrome)
  • Infections with bacteria or viruses (including oral herpes simplex)
  • Injury from burns, rough edges of teeth or dental appliances, or other trauma
  • Low iron levels (called iron deficiency) or certain B vitamins, such as vitamin B12
  • Skin conditions such as oral lichen planus, erythema multiform, aphthous ulcers, pemphigus vulgaris, syphilis, and others
  • Tobacco, alcohol, hot foods, spices, or other irritants
  • Yeast infection in the mouth

At times, glossitis may be passed down in families and is not due to another disease or event.



Review Date: 03/05/2011
Reviewed By: Linda J. Vorvick, MD, Medical Director, MEDEX Northwest Division of Physician Assistant Studies, University of Washington, School of Medicine; and Seth Schwartz, MD, MPH, Otolaryngologist, Virginia Mason Medical Center, Seattle, Washington. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.

A.D.A.M., Inc. is accredited by URAC, also known as the American Accreditation HealthCare Commission (