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Swollen Jaw Checker

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Your Swollen Jaw May Also be Known as:
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Jaw feels swollen
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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.

Top 7 Swollen Jaw Causes

  1. 1.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.

    You can try treating this at home and going to the doctor if things don't work. You can stay well hydrated, apply warm compresses, and massage or "milk" the duct with the stone in it. Another tip would be to suck on lemon drops or other hard tart candy (called sialogogues, which promote salivary secretions) throughout the day. Pain is treated with NSAIDs like Ibuprofen. If things do not get better or you cannot find the stone, it's best to go to your doctor.

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    swelling on one side of the face, swollen jaw, painful jaw swelling, spontaneous jaw pain, painful face swelling
    Urgency:
    Phone call or in-person visit
  2. 2.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.

    You can try treating this at home and going to the doctor if things don't work. You can stay well hydrated, apply warm compresses, and massage or "milk" the duct with the stone in it. Another tip would be to suck on lemon drops or other hard tart candy (called sialogogues, which promote salivary secretions) throughout the day. Pain is treated with NSAIDs like Ibuprofen. If things do not get better or you cannot find the stone, it's best to go to your doctor.

    Rarity:
    Uncommon
    Top Symptoms:
    swelling on one side of the face, swollen jaw, painful face swelling, painful jaw swelling, spontaneous jaw pain
    Urgency:
    Phone call or in-person visit
  3. 3.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.

    You should seek immediate medical care at an ER, where diagnosis is made based on your history, a blood test, and an x-ray of the mouth. If the abscess is affecting your breathing, this is a medical emergency! Treatment involves incision and drainage of the abscess with antibiotics.

    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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  4. 4.Infection of the Salivary Duct (Sialadenitis)

    The ducts that create saliva can be infected by bacteria and is typically found after surgery in the mouth and in the elderly that take medications that slow saliva production.

    You should go to the nearest emergency room, where the amount of treatment can be determined. In the most minor situation, you would need antibiotics for 10 days while the doctors identify the type of bug it is. In more severe cases, you might need to stay at the hospital for antibiotics given through the blood.

    Rarity:
    Rare
    Top Symptoms:
    fever, chills, pain on one side of the face, swelling on one side of the face, swollen jaw
    Urgency:
    Hospital emergency room
  5. 5.Osteonecrosis of the Jaw

    This is a condition where the jaw bone is exposed (this happens if it is not covered by gums). To be called osteonecrosis of the jaw (ONJ), this condition must persist for at least 8 weeks. This disease is common among people taking medications called bisphosphonates or RANKL inhibitors.

    You should visit your primary care physician. This condition is usually treated conservatively with rinses, antibiotics, and pain medication for the mouth.

    Rarity:
    Rare
    Top Symptoms:
    jaw pain, jaw lump, toothache, heavy jaw, swollen jaw
    Symptoms that always occur with osteonecrosis of the jaw:
    jaw pain
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor
  6. 6.Acromegaly

    Acromegaly is an uncommon condition where the body makes too much growth hormone, which is a hormone made by the pituitary gland that stimulates growth and repair of various body tissues. In most cases the excess hormone comes from a small non-cancerous growth in the pituitary gland.

    You should visit your primary care physician. Acromegaly is usually treated by surgical removal of the abnormal growth in the pituitary gland.

    Rarity:
    Rare
    Top Symptoms:
    fatigue, headache, joint pain, weight gain, vision changes
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor
  7. 7.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.

    You should visit your primary care physician for a thorough physical exam. The doctor may remove fluid from the gland to check for signs of infection, and perform imaging with an X-Ray or Ultrasound to figure out the cause of the recurrent inflammation. Treatment may involve prescription medication, or, in rare cases, surgery.

    Rarity:
    Rare
    Top Symptoms:
    dry mouth, swollen jaw, moderate fever, jaw pain
    Symptoms that always occur with chronic inflammation of the salivary gland (parotitis):
    swollen jaw
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor

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.How swollen is your jaw?
  • Q.How long has your jaw been swollen?
  • Q.Is your swollen area warm and red?
  • Q.Any fever today or during the last week?

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

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Swollen Jaw Symptom Checker Statistics

  • People who have experienced swollen jaw have also experienced:

    • 16% Jaw Pain
    • 12% Enlargement of the Area in Front of Your Ear
    • 3% Moderate Jaw Pain
  • People who have experienced swollen jaw had symptoms persist for:

    • 45% Less Than a Week
    • 37% Less Than a Day
    • 7% Over a Month
  • People who have experienced swollen jaw were most often matched with:

    • 68% Acute Salivary Duct Stone (Sialolithiasis)
    • 6% Tooth Abscess (Infection)
    • 4% Chronic Salivary Duct Stone (Sialolithiasis)

Swollen Jaw Checker

Take a quiz to find out why you’re having swollen jaw.

Take a quiz