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Enlarged tongue – Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis and Treatment

April 30th,2018

Some infants and adults have enlarged tongue which looks like extended from their mouth and appears swollen. It is termed as Macroglossia.

If our tongue does not a get sufficient space or room in our mouth, the tongue will not confine to the teeth. It extends to the vestibules between the teeth and the lips.

Newborn babies and infants suffering from this oral health complication have higher chances of malnutrition. As their tongues are like inflamed, it causes certain feeding problems. In such cases, the babies cannot get sufficient nutrients.

People having such kind of larger tongue feel difficulty in eating, chewing, speaking and few other daily activities associated with the mouth.

If this problem is left untreated, it will lead to facial deformities, jaw problems, etc.

Different types of Macroglossia

Depending on certain conditions and reasons that enlarge the tongue size, it is classified as 2 types as follows:
• True macroglossia
• Pseudo macroglossia

True Macroglossia – The enlarged tongue is caused due to congenital factors like Beckwith- Wiedemann Syndrome or others.
Pseudo Macroglossia – In this case, the tongue is normal in size but due to oral complications, the tongue is moved or located at abnormal positions.

Factors causing Macroglossia

The enlarged tongue is caused by various factors like Down syndrome, Isolated hereditary trait, etc. Similarly, certain metabolic conditions also cause macroglossia.

1. Congenital causes

• Chromosomal abnormalities
• Transient neonatal diabetes
• Hemangioma
• Idiopathic muscle hypertrophy
• Autosomal dominant inheritance
• Lymphangioma
• Down syndrome

2. Metabolic causes

• Chronic steroid therapy
• Hypothyroidism
• Myxedema
• Acromegaly
• Amyloidosis

3. Inflammatory causes

• Dental infection
• Calculus
• Tuberculosis

4. Traumatic causes

• Postoperative Edema
• Hematoma

5. Muscular causes

• Lymphangioma
• Beckwith–Wiedemann syndrome
• Other muscular hypertrophy complications

Diagnosis of Macroglossia

This issue is easily identified with the large size of tongue and difficulty in actions like breathing, speaking and others. Besides this, it shows symptoms like infection in the upper respiratory tract and drooling saliva.

In order to provide the right treatment, the dentist needs to diagnose the cause of the enlarged tongue. Hence a dental health specialist performs a physical exam named NORD prior to choosing the appropriate treatment.


Macroglossia is a treatable dental health issue. It will be treated only if the dentist finds the underlying cause of the enlarged tongue. Otherwise, it is difficult to cure this.

  • The simple procedures include using sclerosing agents, cautery and soft tissue destruction.
  • Similarly, speech therapy is provided to treat macroglossia if the severity is mild in range.
  • If macroglossia is caused by high-risk factors like oral cancer or others, surgical treatment is required to eradicate the infected part of the tongue.


As infants are highly prone to this diseases, it is the responsibility of every parent to visit the dentist as soon as possible once they identify the enlarged tongue. Similar to other dental diseases like periodontal diseases and tooth decay, curing macroglossia is simple if it is diagnosed and treated early.

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