Symptoms A-Z

Swollen Mouth Symptoms, Causes & Common Questions

Understand your swollen mouth symptoms, including 7 causes & common questions.

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Contents

  1. Symptoms
  2. Causes
  3. 7 Possible Swollen Mouth Conditions
  4. Treatments and Relief
  5. Questions Your Doctor May Ask
  6. Statistics
  7. References

Swollen Mouth Symptoms

The mouth is perhaps the most sensitive of all the parts of the body. If the mouth fails to detect that you're eating something that might be hazardous, you could be harmed. That's why it will respond right away with warning signals such as redness, pain, and swelling, if it is touched by anything that might cause allergy or illness [1].

In addition, any sort of injury or underlying medical condition can also manifest quite noticeably as mouth swelling, since your mouth is such a fundamental part of your face for talking, eating, and breathing.

Common characteristics of a swollen mouth are

If you're experiencing mouth swelling it can likely be described by:

  • Swelling of the lips, tongue, and throat
  • Red, sore, blistered appearance on the inside of the mouth
  • A rounded lump anywhere inside the mouth: This may be painful or painless
  • Difficulty speaking and with other mouth functions: Such as eating and swallowing due to dryness, pain, and swelling
  • Soreness and swelling of the roof of the mouth

Who is most often affected by swollen mouth symptoms

People who fit the following descriptions are more likely to experience a swollen mouth.

  • Anyone who smokes
  • Those not practicing good oral hygiene

Are swollen mouth symptoms serious?

The severity of mouth swelling is ultimately dependent on the cause.

  • Not serious: Temporary irritation from foods or beverages will heal quickly with a little care.
  • Moderately serious: Unexplained, persistent swelling that causes pain or other difficulty should be seen by a medical provider.
  • Serious: Sudden swelling that includes tightening of the throat and interferes with breathing is a medical emergency and must be treated immediately [2].

Swollen Mouth Causes

Many conditions can cause the symptom of a swollen mouth. We've listed several different causes here, in approximate order from most to least common.

Allergy

Allergies will usually cause swelling in other parts of the body, too, as well as in the mouth, lips, tongue, and palate (the roof of the mouth).Allergies can be causes by:

  • Foods
  • Medications
  • Products for your oral health
  • Skincare products or makeup
  • Plants that you have touched just before touching your mouth
  • Insect bites or stings on the lips or even the tongue

Trauma

Trauma-related causes of tooth swelling may include the following.

  • Dental treatment or surgery: This may cause swelling after the procedure.
  • Sports injury: A ball or another player may strike you in the mouth and result in swelling.
  • Other injury: Such as a car accident, can cause trauma to the mouth

Infection

Infections of the tissues of and around the mouth itself can result in swelling.

  • Bacterial infection: A bacterial infection can cause an abscess, which is a painful, infected lump inside the mouth [3].
  • Cold sores: A viral infection or "cold sore" can cause the roof of the mouth to swell at the same time the sore appears.
  • Spreading tooth infection: In rare cases bacteria may spread from a tooth infection and get into the floor of the mouth. This can cause enough swelling to displace the tongue and push it back until it blocks the throat and, though infrequent, can cause difficulty breathing and a medical emergency.

Illness

Illness can lead to a swollen mouth, such as the following.

  • Viral illness: Some viral illnesses can cause swelling and itching of the roof of the mouth, along with sore throat, swollen glands and tonsils, fatigue, and high fever.
  • Sinus infection: A sinus infection may cause swelling of the roof of the mouth as well as pain, pressure, fever, headache, and nasal congestion.
  • Blocked salivary gland: A blocked salivary gland can fill up with mucus and form a cyst. This is a soft, painless swelling that will appear in the cheeks or on the floor of the mouth.

Irritation

Redness, soreness, and swelling in the mouth can occur with repeated exposures to irritating substances such as [4]:

  • Cigarette smoke
  • Chewing tobacco
  • Alcohol
  • Spicy foods
  • Rough, salty foods such as corn chips or jerky
  • Very hot beverages

Inflammation

Inflammation of the mucosa, or tissues lining the mouth, can cause sores, redness, and swelling of the gums and mouth due to:

  • Radiation therapy to the head and neck
  • Chemotherapy
  • Oxygen therapy
  • Dehydration
  • Poor mouth hygiene
  • Alcohol and tobacco use
  • A very poor-quality, low-protein diet

Rare and unusual causes

More unusual causes of mouth swelling include the following.

  • Hereditary swelling: Some forms of swelling are hereditary and may involve the mouth and throat as well as other parts of the body (where the swelling is known as edema).
  • Tumors: These can cause swelling of the roof of mouth if the tumor is above it, as well as causing other types of mouth ulcers and lumps [5].

7 Possible Swollen Mouth Conditions

The list below shows results from the use of our quiz by Buoy users who experienced swollen mouth. This list does not constitute medical advice and may not accurately represent what you have.

Allergic reaction (not life-threatening)

When the body encounters a harmful substance, it responds with inflammation and swelling that can be protective. In many individuals, the body responds this way to substances that are not normally harmful, like foods or pollen. This is the basis of allergy, or Type 1 Hypersensitivity.

Rarity: Common

Top Symptoms: swollen face, swollen lips, lip numbness, hives, red swollen bumps or patches with a pale center, lip redness

Symptoms that never occur with allergic reaction (not life-threatening): shortness of breath, throat itching

Urgency: Primary care doctor

Anaphylaxis

Anaphylaxis is a life-threatening condition most commonly caused by an allergic reaction. In anaphylaxis, two types of immune cells — mast cells and basophils — are suddenly activated and release numerous inflammatory substances that cause blood vessels to dilate and become leaky, which can lead to low blood pressure, swelling, and damage to organs.

Symptoms of anaphylaxis include itching, redness, and warmth in the form of hives, as well as itching or(https://www.buoyhealth.com/symptoms-a-z/severe-face-swelling/) as well as difficulty breathing and nasal congestion. Several other symptoms are also likely.

Anaphylaxis is a medical emergency. Treatment options will likely involve an epinephrine injection (same contents as in an EpiPen), followed by oxygen and IV fluids, other medications, and an action plan for possible future incidents.

Rarity: Rare

Top Symptoms: nausea or vomiting, headache, stomach bloating, abdominal cramps (stomach cramps), being severely ill

Urgency: Emergency medical service

Gingivitis

Gingivitis is the inflammation of the gums. It is typically caused by poor dental hygiene and the buildup of bacteria. Its hallmark symptoms are swollen, discolored, bleeding gums. The main risk factors for the development of the disease are increasing age, smoking, and dry mouth. It is both treatable and preventable by engaging in recommended dental hygiene practices. A dentist can also treat the disease by cleaning plaque off your teeth, giving you a special mouthwash, and flossing your teeth. If gingivitis is not treated, it can progress to a more aggressive disease, called periodontitis, or can cause an infection of the gums, including the formation of an abscess.

Rarity: Uncommon

Top Symptoms: bleeding gums, gum pain, gum swelling, gum redness

Urgency: Primary care doctor

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Ludwig's angina

Ludwig's angina is a rare but serious infection of the space below the jaw and the floor of the mouth, under the tongue. This illness is not to be confused with "angina" which refers to cardiac pain due to coronary artery disease. The infection usually starts in the floor of the mouth then quickly spreads to the area around the jaw on both sides of the face. Ludwig's angina is considered a medical emergency due to risks of impaired breathing.

Symptoms include fever and chills, mouth pain, a swollen tongue, a stiff neck, drooling and trouble swallowing, a muffled voice or trouble speaking and breathing.

Treatments include antibiotics, surgery to remove infection, and the installation of a tube to assist with breathing in severe cases.

Rarity: Rare

Top Symptoms: shortness of breath, fever, being severely ill, trouble swallowing, neck pain

Urgency: Hospital emergency room

Cold sore

A cold sore is a skin lesion on the lips caused by infection with the herpes simplex virus (HSV). Cold sores are extremely common. In fact, most adults are infected with HSV, usually transmitted in childhood by normal close contact with parents, siblings or friends.

While the infection can be entirely unnoticed, or asymptomatic, the cold sores themselves are usually visible and sometimes painful. In an otherwise healthy individual, they are essentially harmless, though their appearance can cause a great deal of distress.

As with most viruses, there is no cure for HSV infection, though certain medications can decrease the rate of outbreaks for those who are severely afflicted.

Rarity: Uncommon

Top Symptoms: mouth lesions, itchy mouth, pain on the outside of the lips, lip numbness, burning pain on the outside of the lips

Symptoms that always occur with cold sore: mouth lesions

Urgency: Self-treatment

Oral herpes

Herpetic stomatitis is a viral infection of the mouth that causes fever and red and inflamed gums. This typically happens early in childhood.

Rarity: Rare

Top Symptoms: fever, gum pain, painful mouth sore, gum swelling, gum redness

Symptoms that always occur with oral herpes: gum pain

Urgency: Self-treatment

Angioedema

Angioedema is a condition which can cause swelling and puffiness of the face, mouth, tongue, hand or genitals. It is often related to an allergic reaction to food, medicines or insect bites.

Rarity: Rare

Top Symptoms: nausea or vomiting, abdominal cramps (stomach cramps), diarrhea, swollen face, hand swelling

Urgency: Hospital emergency room

Swollen Mouth Treatments and Relief

At-home treatment

Swollen mouth remedies that you can try at home include the following.

  • Reduce or eliminate tobacco use: Take steps to stop smoking and to stop using any chewing tobacco products.
  • Cut down or discontinue drinking alcohol
  • Practice good oral hygiene: Floss regularly and brush your teeth and gums at least twice per day.
  • Protect your face: Use approved mouth guards and face masks when playing sports that require them.

When to see a doctor

You should consult your physician for any unexplained or troublesome lump or swelling, especially if there is pain, fever, or the feeling that the throat is constricted.

When it is an emergency

Seek immediate swollen mouth treatment in the emergency room or call 911 if you experience the following, which are symptoms of anaphylaxis, a severe allergic reaction that can be life-threatening [2].

  • You have a swollen mouth and face with difficulty breathing
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • A rash
  • A feeling of panic

Questions Your Doctor May Ask About Swollen Mouth

To diagnose this condition, your doctor would likely ask the following questions:

  • What part of your mouth is swollen?
  • Do you have a rash?
  • Does your throat feel itchy or irritated?
  • Are your symptoms worse while eating?

The above questions are also covered by our A.I. Health Assistant.

If you've answered yes to one or more of these questions

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Swollen Mouth Symptom Checker Statistics

People who have experienced swollen mouth have also experienced:

  • 7% Mouth Pain
  • 5% Sore Throat
  • 4% Mouth Lesions

People who have experienced swollen mouth were most often matched with:

  • 50% Anaphylaxis
  • 28% Allergic Reaction (Not Life-Threatening)
  • 21% Gingivitis

People who have experienced swollen mouth had symptoms persist for:

  • 41% Less than a day
  • 38% Less than a week
  • 10% Over a month

Source: Aggregated and anonymized results from visits to the Buoy AI health assistant (check it out by clicking on “Take Quiz”).

Swollen Mouth Symptom Checker

Take a quiz to find out why you're having swollen mouth

References

  1. Arava M, Pinto A, AAOM Web Writing Group. Oral hypersensitivity reactions. The American Academy of Oral Medicine. Updated December 31, 2007. AAOM Link
  2. Anaphylaxis. U.S. National Library of Medicine: MedlinePlus. Updated April 17, 2018. MedlinePlus Link
  3. Shweta, Prakash SK. Dental abscess: A microbiological review. Dent Res J (Isfahan). 2013;10(5):585-591. NCBI Link
  4. Hennessy BJ. Mouth sores and inflammation. Merck Manual Consumer Version. Updated September 2018. Merck Manual Consumer Version Link
  5. Oral cancer. Johns Hopkins Medicine. Hopkins Medicine Link