Everything About Atrophic Glossitis

Abnormal tongue conditions can look alarming. Atrophic glossitis is one of these conditions. Luckily, with a dental professional on your side, they can put your mind at ease and get your tongue back to its normal self.

Spotting a Tongue Problem

Glossitis is a general term referring to all conditions that cause inflammation of the tongue. Atrophic glossitis occurs when the small doorknob-like projections on the tongue, calledpapillae, are worn away. The condition affects both the filiform and fungiform papillae, altering the color and texture of the tongue. This condition is also known as Hunter glossitis, Moeller glossitis, or Möller-Hunter glossitis.

Its symptoms typically include a glossy, shiny appearance on the dorsal surface of the tongue, sometimes with a bald or smooth area. The tongue may appear to have large polka dots. Burning of the tongue and discomfort may also result from glossitis.

What Causes Tongue Inflammation?

Glossitis can be caused by various irritants, such as:

  • Acidic beverages or foods
  • Spicy foods
  • Allergic reactions to food or medications
  • Vitamin or mineral deficiencies
  • Trauma to the mouth (like biting the tongue)
  • Other viral or systemic conditions

Often, glossitis can result from more than one of these conditions at a time, making it difficult to diagnose and treat. Additionally, glossitis can be hereditary and therefore have no defined cause.


The management and treatment of atrophic glossitis involve eliminating the source of irritation, disease, trauma, or allergic reaction. As with any abnormal mouth condition, a prompt appointment with a dental professional is recommended for assessment and treatment options. In some cases, additional evaluation, testing and long-term monitoring of the condition may be necessary to rule out malignant lesions. Oral care specialists want to be certain all abnormal areas of the tongue are monitored, since some oral lesions can be early manifestations of systemic conditions.

Your dental provider is the best source for recommendations and referrals for addressing oral complications, so don't hesitate to make an appointment!

This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.

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As we get older, dental care for adults is crucial. Here are a few of the conditions to be aware of:

Gum disease – if your home care routine of brushing and flossing has slipped and you have skipped your regular dental cleanings, bacterial plaque and tartar can build up on your teeth. The plaque and tartar, if left untreated, may eventually cause irreparable damage to your jawbone and support structures, and could lead to tooth loss.

Oral cancer – according to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, men over the age of 40 have the greatest risk for oral cancer. About approximately 43,000 people will be diagnosed with cancer of the mouth, tongue or throat area, and the ACS estimates that about 7,000 people will die from these cancers. The use of tobacco products and alcohol increases the risk of oral cancer. Most oral cancers are first diagnosed by the dentist during a routine checkup.

Dental fillings break down – fillings have a life expectancy of eight to 10 years. However, they can last 20 years or longer. When the fillings in your mouth start to break down, food and bacteria can get underneath them and can cause decay deep in the tooth.