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Swollen Tongue: Causes And Treatments

Published date field Last Updated:

Medically Reviewed By Colgate Global Scientific Communications

Your tongue is a vital and important muscle in your mouth, aiding in your speech and digestion. But do you think about its health often? Sometimes your tongue can get swollen and feel uncomfortably large in your mouth. While the thought of having a swollen tongue can be alarming, a dental professional or doctor can help treat your symptoms. Read on to find out how to make a tongue swelling go down and when to seek immediate medical attention.

What Causes a Swollen Tongue?

The medical term for a swollen tongue is glossitis. It’s a condition in which the tongue becomes red and inflamed, and the surface of the tongue appears smooth.

So what causes a swollen tongue?

  • Injury from rough teeth, piercings, ill-fitting dentures
  • Infection from bacteria, yeast, or viruses (including oral herpes)
  • Allergic reactions due to foods or medicines
  • Dry mouth caused by Sjogren’s Syndrome
  • Irritants like alcohol, tobacco, or hot foods
  • Vitamin deficiencies or hormonal factors

How Do Allergic Reactions Cause Your Tongue to Feel Swollen?

Different types of allergic reactions can cause your tongue to feel swollen. Angioedema is one such type of allergy. MedlinePlus by the National Institutes of Health explains that angioedema is a term used to describe full-body swelling that occurs under the skin. This condition causes the swelling of your tongue along with your eyelids, face, and lips. You may also find some swelling in your throat or on your hands and legs. The swelling on your tongue may make your tongue feel itchy or painful.

Angioedema can be caused by insect bites, some kinds of antibiotics, pollen, and certain foods like berries, shellfish, nuts, milk, and eggs.

Food allergies can result in a whole-body reaction (as seen in angioedema) or trigger an oral allergy. Pineapples, apples, and melons are the foods most likely to trigger an oral allergy.

Treatment for Your Swollen Tongue

According to a report in StatPearls, in most instances, you don’t need any treatment if you have a swollen tongue. That said, your doctor is the best person to consult about your symptoms, especially if your tongue swelling is not improving on its own.

Your doctor may recommend any of the following treatments to make the swelling go down:

  • Good oral care, which should include brushing twice a day and cleaning between your teeth with an interdental device or floss
  • Changing your diet to treat nutritional problems, especially in case you have any vitamin deficiencies or hormonal issues
  • Antibiotics
  • Antihistamines or anti-inflammatory medicines, especially in the case of moderate to severe angioedema

However, if your swelling persists or increases, you must consult your doctor at once. Likewise, if you start having breathing problems, it's important to seek immediate medical assistance.

How to Prevent Tongue Swelling

If an allergic reaction causes your tongue swelling, you can prevent it from happening again by avoiding that specific allergen. Sometimes, of course, you might not know what could have caused the swelling. In such cases, keep a diary of what you eat or use in and around your mouth. If you ever experience swelling, make a note of what you consumed that day. With your doctor’s help, you will be able to figure out what could be causing the swelling and what food or allergen to avoid.

Feeling your tongue suddenly swell up in your mouth can be concerning, but don’t worry; your symptoms will most likely clear up on their own. And if not, your doctor will know how to treat it so that your tongue feels normal again in no time!

Oral Care Center articles are reviewed by an oral health medical professional. This information is for educational purposes only. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist, physician or other qualified healthcare provider. 

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