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Swollen Jaw Causes & Treatment

Apr 10, 2024

Have you ever experienced that uncomfortable puffiness or tenderness in your jaw that seems to make everyday activities like chewing feel like a chore? A swollen jaw is not only physically uncomfortable but can also be a cause for concern, indicating underlying issues that need attention. Whether it's due to a dental problem, jaw injury, or other medical conditions, understanding the causes and finding the right treatment can make a significant difference in relieving discomfort and restoring normal jaw function. 

In this guide, we will look into the common causes, symptoms, and effective treatments for a swollen jaw to help you overcome this common yet troublesome condition.

What is a Swollen Jaw? 

A swollen jaw happens when your jaw area looks and feels larger than usual, and it might be painful or tender to touch. You might also find it challenging to move your jaw comfortably. This swelling can occur due to different reasons, like dental problems such as infections or abscesses, medical conditions like issues with your salivary glands, injuries to your jaw, or infections throughout your body. 

What are the Common Causes of a Swollen Jaw? 

There are several factors that can lead to jaw swelling, each with its own distinct causes. Understanding these triggers can guide you toward appropriate actions. Here are some prevalent reasons:

  • Viral Infections: The mumps virus is a well-known cause of swollen jaws. This viral infection primarily targets the salivary glands, leading to painful swelling in the jaw and cheeks. While mumps cases have decreased due to vaccinations, occasional outbreaks still occur.
  • Dental Issues: Swollen jaws can indicate dental problems like a dental abscess caused by bacterial infections. Symptoms include redness, tenderness, and swelling in the jaw area. Pericoronitis, inflammation around partially erupted teeth, can also cause jaw swelling.
  • Salivary Gland Infections: Infections in salivary glands, such as parotitis, can cause jaw swelling. These infections, often bacterial or viral, result in pain, tenderness, and difficulty in mouth opening.
  • Trauma: Any injury to the jaw, whether from accidents, sports, or dental procedures, can lead to swelling and pain. Immediate medical attention is required if you have experienced jaw trauma.
  • TMJ Dysfunction Disorder: The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) connects the jaw to the skull. TMJ dysfunction can cause swelling, pain, and limited jaw movement due to factors like joint misalignment, teeth grinding, or arthritis.
  • Dental Surgery: Swelling is a common aftermath of dental surgeries like wisdom tooth extraction or dental implants. With proper care and medication, post-operative swelling typically subsides in a few days.
  • Other Causes: Certain medical conditions like seasonal allergies, thyroid issues, fibromyalgia, myofascial pain syndrome, and gum infections may also contribute to jaw swelling. 

What are the Symptoms Associated with Swollen Jaw?

The following symptoms relate to a swollen jaw:

  • Swelling or puffiness in the jaw area
  • Pain or tenderness in the jaw while chewing or touching the affected area
  • Difficulty opening or closing the mouth fully
  • Pus or drainage from the gum or tooth infections
  • Fever, malaise, or other systemic symptoms in cases of infection or inflammation

What is the Diagnosis that your Jaw is Swollen? 

A thorough examination by a dentist or healthcare provider is essential to determine the cause of a swollen jaw. Diagnostic steps may include:

  • Physical examination of the jaw and surrounding tissues
  • Dental X-rays or imaging studies to assess teeth, jawbone, and TMJ health
  • Salivary gland function tests if salivary gland issues are suspected
  • Blood tests or biopsies for investigating systemic conditions or potential cancers

 What are the Treatment Options for Swollen Jaw? 

The treatment options are as follows:

  • Antibiotics: Prescribed to treat bacterial infections causing jaw swelling, such as dental abscesses or gum infections.
  • Pain Management: Utilization of over-the-counter pain relievers or prescription medications to alleviate jaw pain and discomfort associated with swelling.
  • Dental Procedures: Various dental treatments like root canal therapy, tooth extractions, or periodontal treatments may be necessary to address underlying dental issues contributing to jaw swelling.
  • Salivary Gland Treatments: Techniques such as salivary gland massage, adequate hydration, or surgical interventions are employed to manage gland blockages or infections causing jaw swelling.
  • TMJ Therapies: Implementation of lifestyle modifications, jaw exercises, night guards, or TMJ splints to manage temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorders and associated swelling.
  • Surgery or Radiation: In cases of oral tumors or cancers causing jaw swelling, surgical removal, radiation therapy, or chemotherapy may be required as part of treatment.

Home Care and Prevention for Swollen Jaw 

  • Maintain Good Oral Hygiene: Brush teeth twice a day and floss daily to prevent dental issues that can lead to jaw swelling.
  • Apply Warm Compress: Use a warm, damp cloth or heating pad on the swollen jaw area for about 15-20 minutes several times a day to reduce pain and swelling.
  • Stay Hydrated: Drink a good amount of water daily to promote saliva production and prevent salivary gland issues that may cause jaw swelling.
  • Soft Diet: Stick to soft foods that need minimal chewing to reduce strain on the jaw muscles and joints.
  • Avoid Trigger Foods: Steer clear of hard, crunchy, or chewy foods that can aggravate jaw pain and swelling.
  • Gentle Jaw Exercises: Perform gentle jaw exercises recommended by your dentist or physical therapist to improve jaw mobility and reduce stiffness.
  • Stress Reduction Techniques: Practice stress-relieving activities like meditation, yoga, or deep breathing exercises to reduce teeth grinding (bruxism) and jaw clenching that can contribute to jaw swelling.
  • Wear Protective Gear: Use a mouthguard during sports activities to prevent injuries that can lead to jaw trauma and swelling.
  • Regular Dental Check-ups: Schedule routine dental visits for professional cleanings, oral exams, and early detection of dental issues that may cause jaw swelling.

When to Seek Medical Attention? 

Here are situations when you should seek prompt medical care:

  • Persistent or worsening jaw pain
  • Difficulty eating or opening your mouth
  • Fever accompanied by pus discharge
  • Traumatic injury to the jaw
  • Changes in oral health, such as unusual bleeding or swelling
  • Systemic symptoms like fever, fatigue, or weight loss
  • Recurring jaw issues despite home care
  • Unusual oral lumps, bumps, or lesions


Understanding the causes and treatments for a swollen jaw is vital for oral health and overall well-being. Effective medical attention is crucial, whether caused by infections, dental issues, trauma, or other factors. Properly managing jaw swelling and related symptoms becomes manageable with appropriate care like medications, dental procedures, and lifestyle adjustments. 

Ready to address your swollen jaw and ensure optimal oral health? Schedule an appointment online with Afroz Burges, DDS, in Pearland, TX, today! New patients can call us at 281-547-2632, and existing patients can reach us at 713-340-2889. Take the first step towards a healthier smile!


Can allergies cause a swollen jaw? 

Seasonal allergies or allergic reactions to food or medications can lead to swollen lymph nodes in the jaw area, causing jaw swelling.

Is a swollen jaw always a sign of a dental issue? 

While dental problems like infections or abscesses can cause jaw swelling, other factors such as infections in the salivary glands or systemic conditions like allergies can also contribute.

How long does it take for jaw swelling to go down after dental surgery? 

Post-operative jaw swelling typically subsides within a few days to a week after dental surgeries like wisdom tooth extraction or dental implant placement. Proper home care and prescribed medications can help manage swelling and discomfort during recovery.



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