How is glossitis treated?

Treatment of glossitis varies depending on the underlying cause. The goal of treatment is to control tongue inflammation regardless of the cause of glossitis. In addition to avoiding very hot liquids, treatment includes:

  • Anesthetic mouth rinses such as viscous lidocaine (Xylocaine)

  • Antihistamine mouth rinses such as diphenhydramine (Benadryl)

  • Antimicrobial medications and mouth rinses to treat infectious causes of glossitis

  • Corticosteroid mouth rinses such as dexamethasone (Decadron)

  • Dietary changes and nutritional supplements to treat anemia and nutritional deficiencies

  • Magic Swizzle or Magic Mouthwash, which are generic terms for mouthwashes containing a variety of ingredients, such as antacids, anesthetics, antihistamines, antimicrobials and corticosteroids. The specific recipe will be determined by your healthcare provider.

  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), naprosyn (Naproxen, Aleve), and indomethacin (Indocin)

What are the potential complications of glossitis?

Complications associated with glossitis can be progressive and vary depending on the underlying cause. Because glossitis can be due to serious diseases, failure to seek treatment can result in complications and permanent damage. It is important to contact your healthcare provider when you experience any kind of tongue swelling or other symptoms of the mouth or tongue. Once the underlying cause is diagnosed, following the treatment plan you and your healthcare provider develop specifically for you will minimize the risk of complications including:

  • Difficulty breathing, ineffective breathing, and respiratory arrest due to blockage of the airway

  • Difficulty chewing or swallowing

  • Discomfort

  • Speech problems

  • Spread of infection

  • Surgery to remove the tongue due to a serious infection or malignant condition


  1. Glossitis. Medline Plus, a service of the National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health.
  2. Glossitis. PubMed Health, a service of the NLM from the NIH.
  3. Tongue problems. Medline Plus, a service of the National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health.
  4. Reamy BV, Derby R, Bunt CW. Common tongue conditions in primary care. Am Fam Physician 2010; 81:627.

What is glossitis?

Glossitis is a condition characterized by a swollen, smooth-looking tongue that has changed color, commonly to an unusually dark red color. Glossitis is also called smooth tongue and burning tongue syndrome.

Your tongue is made up of muscles and helps you to talk, swallow, taste and chew. The upper surface of your tongue is lined with papillae, which are little bumps that help gri... Read more about glossitisintroduction


What are the symptoms of glossitis?

The symptoms of glossitis include:

  • Change in tongue color from its normal pink to a paler pink, dark red, or bright red

  • Pain or discomfort with chewing, swallowing or talking

  • Smooth texture and appearance of the tongue

  • Tongue pain, soreness or tenderness

  • ... Read more about glossitissymptoms


What causes glossitis?

Glossitis may occur by itself, or it may be caused by a variety of diseases, disorders and conditions. Some causes of glossitis are potentially serious and even life threatening, such as pernicious anemia or pemphigus vulgaris (an autoimmune disorder). Other causes may be relatively mild, such as a small cut when you have ... Read more about glossitiscauses

Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS Last Annual Review Date: Aug 23, 2013 Copyright: © Copyright 2014 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Health Grades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the HealthGrades User Agreement.

This Article is Filed Under: Mouth, Teeth and Oral Health