dentist talking with patient about anemia tongue

Anemia Tongue: Symptoms, Causes And Treatments

As small as it is, the tongue is one of the strongest muscles in your body, particularly when chewing and swallowing food. And although five-year-olds use it to express their disapproval, it's prone to certain ailments of its own. For example, if you have anemia, tongue function and appearance can feel the effects almost as much as your energy level.

What Is Anemia Tongue

Also referred to as glossitis, explains Healthline, this condition causes the tongue to become inflamed, and is characterized by several things when your iron levels are low. The tongue's appearance can morph into multiple shades of red, and swell slightly in size. The surface of the tongue can smooth out and hide its natural texture, as well. These small bumps you feel on your tongue – also known as papillae – play a crucial role in the eating process, and thousands of taste buds are housed inside them. Papillae alteration can affect how you eat and speak.

Signs and Symptoms

If you think you're suffering from an anemia tongue, schedule an appointment with your dentist so he or she can properly diagnose you. Here are some traits to look for before making the call:

  • Swollen tongue
  • Change of tongue color
  • Difficulty or inability to chew, swallow or speak
  • Tongue pain and tenderness
  • Reduction in or loss of tongue papillae


A variety of conditions can lead to tongue inflammation, some more common than others. According to the National Library of Medicine, these include:

  • Allergic reactions. Medications, hot or spicy foods and even certain types of mouth care products can irritate the tongue's papillae. Solutions like Colgate® Peroxyl® Mouth Sore Rinse may therefore substitute a less-sensitive mouth rinse.
  • Injuries. Any sort of mouth trauma resulting from burns or the use of oral appliances like dentures can inflame the tongue.
  • Oral herpes. Certain diseases, such as oral herpes simplex, can cause blisters, swelling and tongue pain.
  • Dry mouth. Saliva is a necessity to keep the tongue moist and free of bacteria that can aggravate the tongue's surface.
Of course, the low iron levels defining anemia are your first stop. Iron aids the body in making red blood cells. When you're deficient in them, the tongue's tissue receives a lack of oxygen, much like the rest of the body.

Types of Glossitis

Tongue inflammation resulting from anemia can take a few different shapes:

  • Acute Glossitis. Usually the result of an allergic reaction, this type of glossitis onsets suddenly and is accompanied by more pronounced symptoms.
  • Chronic Glossitis. This results in a constant inflammation of the tongue and might result from another health condition.
  • Idiopathic Glossitis. Journal of Medical Reports states that this form of glossitis may be linked to celiac disease. Its origin is unknown, but can cause inflammation of the tongue mucous membrane and muscle.
  • Atrophic Glossitis. The tongue looses its original color resulting in a dark-red tongue. This form also leads to a loss of a large number of papillae.

Treatment Options

A trip to your dentist is the best place to start if you suspect you have anemia tongue. During an exam, your dentist will look for blisters, a lack of papillae and any signs of inflammation on your tongue. Blood and saliva samples might also be requested for further testing.

At home, antibiotics, diet changes and proper oral care are all forms of treatment you can use to combat glossitis. Keep in mind a healthy mouth starts with good brushing and flossing. Keep your teeth and gums as healthy as they can be, and being anemic won't mean being in oral pain.

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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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