A swelling in the jaw area may indicate a serious medical condition that requires immediate treatment. If left untreated, a jaw infection could spread to the bloodstream, causing life-threatening health conditions in other parts of the body. It’s important to determine the cause of the swelling before trying at-home treatments and remedies.
Infections can occur in the tooth, gums and even the jawbone itself. Infections in the mouth are usually treated with antibiotics. If the infection spreads to the gum or jawbone, the patient may need a dental procedure to remove the affected tissue.
An abscess is a pocket of pus formed by an infected tooth or gum. It causes severe pain, swelling and redness of the gums. It can also lead to fever, headache, and swollen lymph nodes around the jaw area. A dentist or an ear, nose and throat doctor will drain the abscess and prescribe antibiotics to treat the infection. If the infection is severe, a patient might need IV antibiotics, in which case the medication enters the bloodstream directly.
The temporomandibular joints, or TMJ, are on both sides of the face in front of each ear. TMJ can become irritated and inflamed due to dental problems, arthritic diseases and certain types of chewing. Infected TMJ can also lead to pain, swelling and a clicking and popping sensation while eating or talking.
Lymph nodes are a network of small glands and lymphatic vessels that are part of the immune system. Swollen lymph nodes are often caused by infections, especially bacterial or viral infections in the sinuses, throat or mouth. Other causes include autoimmune disorders like rheumatoid arthritis and lupus. Cancerous growths like lymphoma can also cause swollen lymph nodes, but proper diagnosis by a healthcare professional is essential to determine the best treatment option.
Other non-cancerous lumps can grow along the jawline, including cysts and benign tumors. A cyst is a sac filled with fluid, and a tumor is an abnormal growth that can be either a cancerous or non-cancerous cell. Swollen lymph nodes can also be caused by other things, such as a blocked salivary gland duct or inflammation of the lungs.
Other signs of a possible health emergency include throbbing pain in the jaw that spreads to the chest and shoulders (a heart attack), or difficulty opening the mouth (trismus). Seek medical attention immediately if these symptoms appear. This is because it’s vital that any potentially dangerous infections or illnesses are treated right away before they can spread to other areas of the body.