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What Is Smooth Tongue?

By Helena Reimer
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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A smooth tongue is also known as Atrophic glossitis or Moeller glossitis. It is a condition wherein the tongue becomes inflamed and often is painful to the point where it is difficult to speak or swallow. The papillae, which are the tiny bumps on the tongue's surface, begin to disappear and results in the appearance of a bald tongue. In some cases, a smooth tongue is brought on by an underlying health problem, such as allergic reactions, infections, and nutritional deficiencies. The condition can often be treated and prevented with proper nutrition and good hygiene.

The symptoms of a smooth tongue include tenderness and swelling, which is due to the inflammation. If the swelling is not reduced, it can eventually make it difficult to chew or swallow food. It can also make it difficult to breathe, which is a serious symptom and should be dealt with immediately. The cause of the smooth tongue generally determines the type of symptoms that are present. If it is the result of a vitamin deficiency, then the tongue often appears bright red; and if it is caused by anemia, which is a shortage of red blood cells, the tongue can appear pale.

Deficiencies in iron and vitamin B-12 are common causes of a smooth tongue. Spicy foods and strong toothpastes can irritate the mouth and contribute to a smooth tongue and other conditions, such as geographic tongue. Other problems that affect the health of the tongue include canker sores, certain skin disorders, and autoimmune disorders.

Some infections, such as syphilis, yeast infections, and infections caused by bacteria can also play roles. Bacterial infections can be caused by dehydration because it reduces the amount of saliva in the mouth, which is responsible for washing away harmful bacteria. As a result, the bacteria has the proper environment in which it is able to multiply and cause an infection to develop.

The diagnosis of a smooth tongue can be done by visually examining the tongue. In order for proper treatment, however, it is important for the doctor to determine the cause of the condition. Therefore, the doctor might take a blood test in order to eliminate possible underlying health problems. Information regarding one's lifestyle and a medical history are also helpful in determining the cause of the inflamed tongue.

Treatments involve reducing the inflammation and avoiding foods and other substances that irritate the tongue. In cases of nutritional deficiencies, supplements and other nutrient-rich foods are recommended. Regular checkups at the dentist and other good oral hygiene practices, such as brushing and flossing the teeth, can not only help in treating a smooth tongue but can also help to prevent it in the future.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Discussion Comments
By fBoyle — On Jan 29, 2015

@SteamLouis-- Let your doctor determine the issue and the cause. But it's probably either a case of inflammation (glossitis) or a result of vitamin deficiencies. It's normal to not taste food well when smooth tongue occurs. Our taste buds are located inside the bumps. So when they disappear, our taste buds are affected negatively too.

In my case, smooth tongue was due to iron and vitamin B deficiencies. So treatment just consists of taking vitamins which is fairly easy to do. It also helps to eat a more balanced diet with meat, dairy, nuts, beans, carbohydrates, vegetables and fruits in good measure.

By SteamLouis — On Jan 28, 2015

I think I'm suffering from smooth tongue but I'm not sure what's causing it. It started last week when I noticed that I can't taste foods like before. Initially, I thought that I was sick because that has happened before. Sometimes when I have a cold or flu, I have difficulty tasting foods. But when I didn't develop any other symptoms, I got curious and observed my tongue and mouth. I was surprised to see my tongue very smooth.

I have an appointment with my doctor tomorrow. I guess I'll find out for sure then if I have smooth tongue. I just hope that it's not serious and easily treatable.

Has anyone else here had smooth tongue and loss of taste before? What turned out to be the cause in your case?

By burcinc — On Jan 28, 2015

The very first time I observed my tongue, I was scared about the bumps on my tongue. I thought they were abnormal until my mother told me that's what a tongue looks like. I still dislike the appearance and clean my tongue regularly because I feel like bacteria grows on the bumps. I'm surprised to learn that having a smooth tongue is actually abnormal and unhealthy.

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