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Glossitis (Inflammation of the Tongue)


The oral cavity has two important organs, namely the teeth and tongue. If the teeth play a role in smoothing food, the tongue functions as a means of taste and swallowing food. However, the function of the tongue can be impaired. One of them is a swollen and inflamed tongue known as glossitis.

What is glossitis?

Glossitis is a disorder of the tongue that is caused by inflammation and causes physical changes in the tongue. This disease causes the tongue to swell and enlarge, change color, and change the structure of the upper surface of the tongue.

Inflammation due to glossitis usually occurs on the papillae, which are clusters of nodules that give texture over the surface of the tongue. The papillae are an important organ for tasting food, so they can cause dietary changes in people with glossitis.

Inflammation of the upper area, which is painful, can also affect how you speak.

Types of glossitis based on their appearance

Glossitis has a nonspecific type of disease progression, since inflammation of the tongue can occur in several ways. Types of glossitis are distinguished as follows:

Acute glossitis

Represents a type inflammation of the tongue which appears suddenly and tends to be serious. This is usually due to an allergic reaction to the tongue.

Idiopathic glossitis

This type of glossitis is caused by inflammation of the tongue muscle which is accompanied by the loss of part of the papillae on the inflamed part of the tongue. The cause of this type of glossitis is unknown.

Chronic glossitis

Including the types of glossitis that can disappear and recur, usually caused by nutritional deficiencies or other diseases.

Atrophic glossitis

This disease is characterized by the texture and discoloration of the tongue due to the loss of almost all of the tongue papillae. Usually the tongue turns a dark reddish color.

Signs and symptoms

What are the symptoms of glossitis?

Symptoms of glossitis can occur on one part or almost the entire surface of the tongue. Inflammation of the tongue can also move to certain parts of the tongue. The episodes of glossitis tend to be brief, but symptoms can recur and go away for up to a year.

Symptoms that appear depend on the cause of the inflammation. Some of the common symptoms that occur are:

  • Pain in the tongue
  • Swelling of the tongue
  • Discoloration of the tongue
  • Inability to speak, eat, and swallow
  • Loss of papillae on the surface of the tongue
  • Blocked airway


What causes a swollen tongue due to glossitis?

The occurrence of glossitis or inflammation of the tongue can be influenced by genetic factors passed down in one family. However, the appearance of inflammation on the tongue can be caused by several things, including:

1. Allergic reactions

Hypersensitivity of the papillae and tongue muscles can be triggered by various irritants from food, diuretic drugs, diabetes drugs, high blood pressure-lowering drugs and toothpaste. Allergic reactions can also be obtained from oral care products, food, or drugs.

2. Infectious diseases

The presence of inflammation can be triggered by a Streptococcus bacterial infection in the mouth and herpes simplex disease can affect immunity and attack the muscles and tongue papillae, causing inflammation and swelling.

3. Dry mouth

Lack of saliva produced by the salivary glands, apart from causing dry mouth, can also cause the tongue to become inflamed. However, this can be triggered by other diseases that attack the salivary glands or by dehydration.

4. Malnutrition

Is a sign of iron, folate, and vitamin B12 deficiency. Glossitis disease can also occur together with anemia in a person.

5. Trauma to the mouth

Pressure marks or open sores in the mouth also often affect the tongue. The presence of rough surface friction such as caused by braces can also cause injury and trigger glossitis.

There are also injuries, such as burns, rough teeth, or dentures that don’t fit properly on the gums.

Risk factors

Risk factors for tongue glossitis

In general, glossitis can occur to anyone, but the risk of developing this disease can increase if someone has decreased immunity, chronic inflammatory diseases such as psoriasis, and those who have a hole in the tongue (fissured tongue).

Glossitis is also more common in people who frequently eat hot foods and have a smoking habit.

How is glossitis diagnosed?

Apart from guessing the symptoms you have, it’s a good idea to visit a doctor to find out more about your condition. The doctor will give an assessment of the condition according to the symptoms you have on the tongue.

The doctor will check for abnormal lumps and blisters on your tongue, gums, and the soft tissues of your mouth. An examination of the spot that appears on the tongue is also carried out. Then the doctor will ask some questions about your medical history and lifestyle to find the cause of inflammation of the tongue.

The doctor will also take saliva and blood samples to be sent to the laboratory for further tests.

Treatment and prevention

How to deal with swollen tongue due to glossitis

In general, the pain and symptoms of glossitis can go away on their own without specific treatment as the causes of this inflammation of the tongue, such as anemia and body power, begin to improve.

Here are some things you can do:

1. Take antibiotics

You may need to take antibiotics if the bacteria that trigger the infection are in your mouth and if the infection has spread from other parts of your body. But keep in mind, the use of antibiotics must be according to doctor’s recommendations and prescriptions.

2. Maintain oral health

This is done by keeping the teeth and mouth clean and treating cavities or abscesses on the teeth and gums appropriately. This is necessary to prevent transmission and recurrent infection of the tongue.

3. Using dental flossing

Apart from brushing your teeth with a toothbrush, the use of daily dental floss can also help in improving the health of your tongue, gums and teeth.

This can help relieve the symptoms associated with glossitis and prevent them from getting worse or from occurring again.

4. Overcoming pain

In some cases, the pain can be sustained so that it needs to be treated with the consumption of painkillers, anti-inflammatory drugs, applying corticosteroids to the tongue or by consuming zinc.

5. Avoid inflammatory triggers

Some substances can actually exacerbate inflammation and prevent the inflammation of the tongue from healing. Therefore, during the healing period, it is necessary for you to avoid foods that trigger allergies if any, consumption of cigarettes, whitening agents on toothbrushes, hot foods and foods with a spicy, sour, salty and oily taste.

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