Glossitis: Care Instructions

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Inside of the mouth


Glossitis is swelling of the tongue. The tongue looks smooth and may be an unusual color from pinkish to dark red. Glossitis is often caused by an infection. Other causes include injury, irritation from tobacco or spicy foods, or a poor diet.

Glossitis can make it hard for you to talk, chew, or swallow, especially if you get sores on your tongue.

Treatment for glossitis depends on the cause. An infection is treated with antibiotics. Other medicines can relieve swelling and pain. If the swelling is severe, your doctor may prescribe steroids.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

How can you care for yourself at home?

  • If your doctor prescribed antibiotics, take them as directed. Do not stop taking them just because you feel better. You need to take the full course of antibiotics.
  • You may want to eat a bland or liquid diet while you have glossitis. Bland foods include mashed potatoes, soft breads, cream soups, eggs, and soft and well-cooked vegetables.
  • Avoid spicy or hot foods and citrus fruits like orange juice or lemons that can make the swelling of glossitis worse.
  • Rinse your mouth with a mixture of a half-teaspoon of baking soda in 1 cup of warm water.
  • Floss your teeth every day. Brush your teeth at least two times a day. Clean your tongue when you brush your teeth.
  • Do not smoke, chew, or dip tobacco. Tobacco use can cause glossitis. If you need help quitting, talk to your doctor about programs and medicines. These can increase your chances of quitting for good.

When should you call for help?

Call 911 anytime you think you may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • You have trouble breathing.

Call your doctor now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • You have signs of infection, such as:
    • Increased pain, swelling, warmth, or redness.
    • Pus draining from the area.
    • A fever.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor if:

  • You do not get better as expected.

Where can you learn more?

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The Health Encyclopedia contains general health information. Not all treatments or services described are covered benefits for Kaiser Permanente members or offered as services by Kaiser Permanente. For a list of covered benefits, please refer to your Evidence of Coverage or Summary Plan Description. For recommended treatments, please consult with your health care provider.