What are the Common Causes of Mouth Swelling?

Meshell Powell

Mouth swelling can be an aggravating and potentially painful symptom for many people. There are several potential causes for mouth swelling, including infection, a tumor, or an allergic reaction. Treatment options will vary based on the direct cause of the swelling. Common treatment options include the use of an antibiotic or antihistamine, or in the event of a tumor, surgical intervention may be necessary. Typically, a dentist will be able to diagnose and treat most cases of mouth swelling.

Kidney disease may cause face and mouth swelling.
Kidney disease may cause face and mouth swelling.

Dental infections are perhaps the most common causes of mouth swelling. These infections usually involve some degree of pain along with the swelling. Dental infections may be caused by tooth decay, abscesses, or gum irritation. As is the case with most infections, dental infections are typically treated with prescription antibiotics. In some cases, pain medications will also be prescribed.

A severe allergic reaction known as anaphylaxis can lead to mouth and throat swelling.
A severe allergic reaction known as anaphylaxis can lead to mouth and throat swelling.

Angioedema, a specific type of allergic reaction, is a relatively common cause of oral swelling as well. This reaction is often a response to a particular medication, though the cause remains unknown in some cases. Treatment may involve discontinuing the medication that caused the reaction or changing to a different medication. Over-the-counter or prescription antihistamines are often helpful as well. Allergic reactions can be potentially life-threatening and should be treated as medical emergencies.

A tumor causing mouth swelling might be identified during a physical examination.
A tumor causing mouth swelling might be identified during a physical examination.

An electrolyte imbalance is another possible cause of mouth and facial swelling. Electrolytes are specialized salts that carry electrical impulses throughout the body. Certain medical conditions, including kidney disease, are prone to causing electrolyte imbalances. Treatment for this condition relies on finding and treating the cause of the imbalance.

Dental infections may cause mouth swelling.
Dental infections may cause mouth swelling.

Other conditions that may lead to oral swelling include heart failure or a condition known as venous thrombosis. Venous thrombosis is the medical term for a blood clot located in a vein. For these conditions, the patient will likely be referred to a cardiologist, a doctor who specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of diseases of the circulatory system. Problems with the lymphatic system may also be the problem; in which case, the patient may wish to visit a specialist known as an endocrinologist.

In some cases, a tumor located somewhere in the head may be responsible for mouth swelling. A dentist can often find the tumor through a combination of x-rays and physical examination, but the patient will likely be sent to a surgeon for further evaluation. The tumor may be able to be treated with medications, though surgical removal is more common, especially if the tumor is large or causes problems when breathing or swallowing.

An allergic reaction may cause mouth swelling.
An allergic reaction may cause mouth swelling.

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Discussion Comments


@Ted41 - Unless you're a medical professional, it's probably not a good idea to try and diagnose people for medical stuff. I mean obviously you don't need to run to the doctor for a small cut, but for something like mouth swelling it probably is a good idea to seek a professional opinion.


I had no idea that facial swelling could be caused by so many different things. I knew you could get mouth swelling from allergies or from a dental infection, but I had no idea that it could come from kidney disease or a blood clot.

That's good information to know, because someone with mouth swelling could end up needing medical attention immediately. If I ever see someone with mouth swelling I won't automatically assume they must have allergies.


@indemnifyme - That does sound really scary. I think mouth and tongue swelling from allergies is so disturbing because if that area swells up enough, you won't be able to breathe. Luckily I don't have any food allergies, so hopefully I'll never experience mouth swelling for another reason either.

Lip swelling and mouth swelling can definitely be a symptom of an allergic reaction. I have a few friends that have food allergies of varying severity, so I've seen this a few times.

When someone has a food allergy, they usually start swelling up almost as soon as they take a bit of the food. Some people only swell a little bit, and they can just take antihistamines.

However, for other people with really severe allergies they have to go to the hospital. I have one friend with serious allergies like that, and she's had a couple of really scary things happen at restaurants.

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