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Mouth Diseases

Why is my tongue peeling?

06/08/2009

Question:

I am eighteen, female, and off and on for the last year or so my tongue peels. Not little patches, either. Full thick layers. I didn`t burn my tongue any of the times, have not changed my mouthwash before or after any of the peeling. The peeling usually lasts for a week or two, then goes away. It never hurts, but a peeling tongue has the worst texture ever. No other changes that I can tell. Any suggestions on what this might be or if I should get it checked out?

Answer:

The issue you describe would be quite unusual if it is accurate, especially if you are referring to the upper or dorsal surface of the tongue. There are few conditions or settings where the dorsal tongue "peels" its surface layers. As you noted, oral hygiene products such as toothpastes or mouthwashes may occasionally cause this reaction in other areas of the mouth like the lips or cheeks and also the under (ventral) surface of the tongue.

One other possibility could be a contact reaction to candies or gum that contain cinnamon flavoring. Lastly, although not strictly a "peeling" process, another consideration if the upper surace of the tongue is being affected would be a condition known as geographic tongue or benign migratory glossitis.

If this issue persists, see your dentist or a dental specialist such as an oral pathologist or oral surgeon to see if anything can be done to help you or give you some relief from this annoying problem. Good luck!

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Response by:

John R Kalmar, DMD, PhD John R Kalmar, DMD, PhD
Clinical Professor of Pathology
College of Dentistry
The Ohio State University