Read below about swollen jaw, including causes, treatment options and remedies. Or get a personalized analysis of your swollen jaw from our A.I. health assistant. At Buoy, we build tools that help you know what’s wrong right now and how to get the right care.

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Swollen Jaw Symptoms

Multiple medical conditions can cause a swollen jaw, since there are many structures that contribute to the function of the jaw. The jaw is made up of two bones, the maxilla (upper bone) and the mandible (lower bone). The temporomandibular joint connects the mandible to the skull and allows for the chewing motion of the jaw. Abnormalities of the jaw bones or the temporomandibular joint can contribute to swelling. In addition, problems with the teeth, gums, or the glands that produce saliva can cause swelling in the area of the jaw.

Symptoms that can be associated with a swollen jaw include:

  • Painless or painful swelling
  • Difficulty opening the mouth
  • Swelling occurring mostly with meals
  • Systemic symptoms like fever and tiredness
  • Pain with chewing
  • Decreased sensation and ability to move the facial muscles
  • Swollen lymph nodes in the neck

Swollen Jaw Causes Overview

Infections that Cause Jaw Swelling

  • Dental infection : An infection that starts in the teeth or gums can spread throughout the tissues of the mouth, causing swelling that can be in the jaw area. This type of infection can become severe, with difficulty opening the mouth, fever, and difficulty breathing.
  • Bone or skin infection : A local infection of a jaw bone or the overlying soft tissues can cause swelling.
  • Salivary gland infection : An infection of a salivary gland can cause sudden swelling and tenderness.
  • Venous infection : Infection of the jugular vein in the neck can cause tenderness and swelling near the jaw, in addition to systemic symptoms such as fever and chills.
  • Systemic infection : Viral infections, including mumps, can cause swelling of salivary glands. Systemic infections can also cause enlargement of lymph nodes in the neck. Either of these can give the jaw a swollen appearance.

Trauma

  • Jaw injury : Trauma in the region of the jaw can cause a jaw bone fracture or a collection of blood within the tissue. Either of these will lead to swelling.
  • Tooth extraction : Jaw swelling can occur as a normal reaction to removal of a tooth.

Tumors

  • Jaw bone tumors : Both benign and malignant tumors can start in the jaw bones, leading to swelling. Malignant tumors from other parts of the body can also metastasize to the jaw.
  • Salivary gland tumors : A benign or cancerous tumor can develop in one of the salivary glands, causing swelling without pain. A tumor of one of the major salivary glands can potentially interfere with an adjacent nerve, causing decreased sensation and facial movement.
  • Lymphoma : One type of lymphoma @usually presents with rapidly enlarging jaw swelling, particularly among African patients.

Other causes of jaw swelling

  • Salivary duct stone: Chronic, intermittent swelling and tenderness over the jaw can occur if there is a stone blocking passage of saliva through the duct of a salivary gland.
  • Arthritis : Rheumatoid arthritis can affect the temporomandibular joint, resulting in swelling along with pain while chewing.

A.I. Health Assistant Causes for Swollen Jaw

The list below shows results from the use of our A.I. Health Assistant by Buoy users who experienced swollen jaw. This list does not constitute medical advice.

  1. 1.Acute Salivary Duct Stone (Sialolithiasis)

    A salivary duct stone is the most common disorder of the salivary glands (where you make spit). They can range in size from tiny particles to stones that are several centimeters in length.

    Symptoms last 26 days on average

    Rarity:
    Uncommon
    Top Symptoms:
    swelling on one side of the face, swollen jaw, painful face swelling, spontaneous jaw pain, painful jaw swelling
    Urgency:
    Phone call or in-person visit
  2. 2.Tooth Abscess (Infection)

    A tooth abscess is a collection of infected material (pus) in the center of a tooth. It is due to bacterial infection.

    Resolves after treatment

    Rarity:
    Uncommon
    Top Symptoms:
    severe jaw or tooth pain, swollen jaw, jaw stiffness, tooth pain that gets worse with hot, cold, or sweet beverages, warm and red jaw swelling
    Symptoms that always occur with tooth abscess (infection):
    severe jaw or tooth pain
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor

    Swollen Jaw Checker

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  3. 3.Chronic Salivary Duct Stone (Sialolithiasis)

    A salivary duct stone is the most common disorder of the salivary glands (where you make spit). They can range in size from tiny particles to stones that are several centimeters in length.

    Symptoms last 26 days on average

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    swelling on one side of the face, swollen jaw, spontaneous jaw pain, painful jaw swelling, painful face swelling
    Urgency:
    Phone call or in-person visit
  4. 4.Chronic Inflammation of the Salivary Gland (Parotitis)

    The parotid glands are large salivary glands that sit inside each cheek, over the jaw in front of each ear. Chronic recurrent parotitis is a condition that causes repeated cycles of swelling in these glands, causing swelling and occasionally dry mouth or a strange taste.

    Most episodes of chronic parotitis are treated symptomatically. Antibiotics are often effective. In the most severe cases, the inflamed gland can be surgically removed.

    Rarity:
    Ultra rare
    Top Symptoms:
    jaw pain, moderate fever, swollen jaw, dry mouth, swelling behind the ears
    Symptoms that always occur with chronic inflammation of the salivary gland (parotitis):
    swollen jaw
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor
  5. 5.Infected Wisdom Tooth (Pericoronitis)

    Pericoronitis of the 3rd molar is an infection of the gums surrounding the 3rd molar (wisdom tooth). It almost never happens to normal teeth because wisdom teeth take a long time to break the gums (erupt). It's believed that once the wisdom tooth breaks the surface of the gums, the bacteria in the mouth get into the gums at that spot and cause an infection. This is also worsened by food particles that build up in the area.

    Need treatment for it to get better

    Rarity:
    Rare
    Top Symptoms:
    possible wisdom tooth pain, moderate tooth pain, tooth pain that makes chewing difficult, severe tooth pain, mild tooth pain
    Symptoms that always occur with infected wisdom tooth (pericoronitis):
    possible wisdom tooth pain
    Urgency:
    In-person visit

Swollen Jaw Treatments and Relief

Most causes of jaw swelling do not require urgent evaluation. However, some types of infection or injury can be severe or even life-threatening without quick treatment. In some situations, emergency management may be necessary to protect your airway.

Seek emergency treatment for your swollen jaw if:

  • You are having difficulty swallowing, speaking, breathing, or opening your mouth.
  • Your swelling is rapidly progressive (increasing steadily within one day).
  • You have systemic symptoms like fever and fatigue.
  • You have jaw swelling following a blunt trauma, such as in a car accident.
  • You have an untreated tooth infection and now are having severe swelling.

In some cases, even though emergency treatment isn't necessary, you may need evaluation and treatment of your swollen jaw.

Make an appointment with your medical provider if:

  • You notice discomfort and swelling near the jaw that occurs when you eat.
  • You have painless swelling that is slowly increasing in size.
  • You have been diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis and now notice pain with chewing.
  • You have continued jaw swelling three days after the removal of a tooth.

Your medical provider may prescribe one of the following treatments:

  • Antibiotics to treat an infection.
  • Removal of a salivary gland or a stone that is blocking a salivary duct.
  • Further diagnostic workup and referral to a specialist if cancer is suspected.
  • Treatment of an underlying medical condition, such as rheumatoid arthritis.

Some home treatments may help with a swollen jaw.

  • If an infected salivary gland is the cause, in addition to antibiotics, warm compresses can help with discomfort, and lemon drops can stimulate saliva production.
  • Drink plenty of water in order to stay well hydrated.
  • Gently massage the swollen area.
  • If you recently had a tooth extraction or other type of dental work, applying an ice pack for about 20 minutes at a time can help with swelling and discomfort.

FAQs About Swollen Jaw

Here are some frequently asked questions about swollen jaw.

Can dental problems cause a swollen jaw?

Yes, dental problems can cause swelling in the area of the jaw. It is common to experience swelling and tenderness after having a tooth removed. In addition, an infection that starts in a tooth, if untreated, can spread to deeper tissues in the mouth and cause jaw swelling. In this case it may be difficult to swallow and open the mouth, and breathing may be impaired.

Can a swollen jaw be caused by cancer?

In some cases a swollen jaw can be due to cancer. Burkitt’s lymphoma is an aggressive type of cancer that often starts with rapidly progressive jaw or facial swelling, particularly when it occurs in people from African countries. If Burkitt’s lymphoma is the suspected cause of jaw swelling, rapid evaluation including imaging and blood tests is required. Other types of cancer that originate in the jaw bones or metastasize from other parts of the body can cause jaw swelling, which may be visible inside or outside the mouth.

Why does my jaw swell up when I eat?

If you notice that one side of your jaw becomes swollen and tender only when you eat, a salivary duct stone may be the cause. Eating causes the salivary glands to increase the production of saliva. A stone blocking the duct that usually delivers saliva from the gland to the mouth causes saliva to build up, causing swelling and pain. You may be able to feel the stone if you palpate the inside of the mouth in the swollen area.

Why is my jaw swollen on just one side?

Some causes of swelling will affect only one side of the jaw. Tumors, injury, or an infection of a salivary gland or a tooth may be present on one side or the other but likely would not be bilateral. Mumps, a viral infection that affects the large parotid salivary glands, can cause swelling on one or both sides.

Why is my jaw swelling increasing rapidly?

Rapidly increasing swelling of the jaw can be a sign of a dangerous infection, particularly if other symptoms are present such as tenderness, fever, and difficulty opening the mouth. It can also indicate an aggressive type of cancer. If your swelling is continuing to worsen, you should seek immediate evaluation. Emergency treatment may be necessary to stabilize an infection or prevent side effects from a growing tumor.

Questions Your Doctor May Ask About Swollen Jaw

  • Q.Is your swollen area warm and red?
  • Q.If you touch the swollen area, is there pain?
  • Q.Do you take good care of your teeth?
  • Q.Are your symptoms worse while eating?

If you've answered yes to one or more of these questions, try our swollen jaw symptom checker to find out more.

Swollen Jaw Quiz

Swollen Jaw Symptom Checker Statistics

  • People who have experienced swollen jaw have also experienced:

    • 18% Enlargement of the Area in Front of Your Ear
    • 18% Jaw Pain
    • 5% Toothache
  • People who have experienced swollen jaw had symptoms persist for:

    • 49% Less Than a Week
    • 36% Less Than a Day
    • 6% Over a Month
  • People who have experienced swollen jaw were most often matched with:

    • 50% Tooth Abscess (Infection)
    • 25% Acute Salivary Duct Stone (Sialolithiasis)
    • 25% Chronic Salivary Duct Stone (Sialolithiasis)
  • Source: Aggregated and anonymized results from visits to the Buoy AI health assistant (check it out by clicking on “Take Quiz”).

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