Glossitis is a condition in which your tongue becomes inflamed and swollen. Causes include allergic reactions, infections and dry mouth. Glossitis treatment depends on the cause, but may include antibiotics, dietary changes and improved oral hygiene. Once treated, glossitis usually goes away.
Glossitis is a condition that causes your tongue to become swollen and inflamed. People with glossitis often have tongues that look smooth or glossy.
Glossitis may appear suddenly (acute glossitis) or it may recur over time (chronic glossitis).
There are a few different types of glossitis, including:
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Glossitis symptoms vary depending on the underlying cause. Symptoms may appear suddenly or develop over a long period of time.
Common glossitis symptoms include:
Glossitis causes include:
Glossitis itself isn’t contagious. But you can pass any underlying infection from person to person. For example, if you have glossitis due to oral herpes, the infection can spread through saliva.
Anyone can get glossitis. But you’re more likely to develop the condition if you:
A healthcare provider can diagnose glossitis during a physical examination of your tongue and mouth. They’ll look to see if you have missing papillae and ask about your symptoms. If necessary, they may request additional assessments, such as blood tests, to rule out other conditions.
Glossitis treatment depends on the underlying cause of the condition. Once treated effectively, glossitis typically goes away.
Common glossitis treatments include:
Your healthcare provider may prescribe oral medication — such as antibiotics, antivirals or antifungals — to treat glossitis. In some cases, they may also give you a corticosteroid ointment to help reduce soreness and redness.
If you have a vitamin or nutritional deficiency that’s causing glossitis, your healthcare provider will likely prescribe supplements. They may also recommend ways to add essential nutrients into your natural diet.
If you have glossitis flare-ups after eating spicy foods, your healthcare provider may recommend avoiding these foods for a while. If you’re prone to glossitis, it’s also a good idea to quit smoking and reduce your alcohol intake.
Practicing good oral hygiene helps eliminate harmful microorganisms that can lead to infection. Brush your teeth two to three times a day using a soft-bristled toothbrush and nonabrasive fluoride toothpaste. Floss between your teeth once a day. Don’t forget to brush your tongue.
Once treated, glossitis should go away within a few days. If your symptoms last longer than 10 days, contact your healthcare provider for further instructions.
You can reduce your risk for glossitis by avoiding the triggers that cause it. Possible triggers include smoking, drinking alcohol and eating hot and spicy foods.
You can also reduce your risk for glossitis and other oral health issues by practicing good oral hygiene at home and visiting your dentist regularly for exams and cleanings.
Most of the time, acute glossitis goes away once your healthcare provider treats it. Sometimes, it can even go away on its own.
If you have chronic or recurring glossitis, talk to your healthcare provider about ways to manage your symptoms during flare-ups.
You should call your healthcare provider if glossitis symptoms last longer than 10 days or if your symptoms don’t respond to treatment.
If your tongue becomes severely swollen and you have difficulty speaking or breathing, call 911 or head to your nearest emergency room.
If your healthcare provider diagnoses you with glossitis, here are some questions you may want to ask:
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Glossitis refers to inflammation of your tongue. It can occur for many reasons, including allergic reactions, mouth trauma and low iron levels. No matter what the cause, effective glossitis treatment can eliminate pain and swelling and improve your quality of life. To reduce your risk of glossitis, visit your dentist regularly and practice good oral hygiene.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 08/09/2022.
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