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How do I Treat a Swollen Jaw?

By Lauren Fritsky
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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A swollen jaw can be a symptom of a tooth problem, a cold, an infection, an inflammation of the salivary gland — known as sialoadenitis, an injury, or a bite. To treat a swollen jaw, the main problem must first be addressed. Jaw swelling can be treated at home with medication, warm saltwater rinses or cold compresses. More severe jaw swelling may require medical attention involving bandaging, popping the jaw into its correct position or performing surgery.

If you believe the cause of your jaw pain is not something serious and you prefer to treat it yourself, you can try holding an ice pack or ice cubes wrapped in a cloth on the jaw for 15 minutes to decrease the swelling. A warm compress may not work as well, as heat can exacerbate the swelling if a tooth infection, for example, is the cause. Some people claim that they've had success in easing the pain of a swollen jaw by resting on a bed and keeping their heads elevated with several pillows. Another home remedy for jaw pain involves placing slices of raw potatoes over the swollen area two or three times a day.

When the swollen jaw is accompanied by bad breath, pain during chewing, tooth sensitivity or swollen glands, a tooth problem is probably the cause. Among the possible issues are a tooth abscess or tooth injury. Treatment will most likely require a visit to the dentist, who may prescribe antibiotics or pain relievers or instruct you to rinse with warm salt water, which typically involves swishing a glass of warm water mixed with a teaspoon of salt. The dentist or doctor may also prescribe antibiotics if the swelling is due to a cold or other illness, such as sialoadenitis, which is often caused by a virus or bacteria.

A swollen jaw can also occur if the jaw has been injured or broken in an accident or assault. Bruising, bleeding and numbness are also signs of a broken jaw. Immediate first aid is usually required after a jaw injury due to the risk of breathing problems or excess bleeding. The injury can be minimized by holding the jaw gently in place with your hands and wrapping a bandage over the top of the head and under the jaw. Minor jaw fractures can be treated with pain medicines and a soft or liquid diet, while more moderate or severe fractures may require surgery. A swollen jaw typically does not occur in a dislocated jaw.

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Discussion Comments
By anon992072 — On Aug 11, 2015

I'm a dipper and I've recently have quit and I woke up with a sore, swollen jaw. Is this related to quitting?

By yumdelish — On May 07, 2011

If you apply ice packs to a swollen jaw muscle make sure you protect your skin. I find it easiest to wrap a towel around the cold pack. I have heard of people forgetting to do this and then getting freezer burn as a result.

By Windchime — On May 04, 2011

My younger sister woke up with a swollen jaw on one side of her face, and within minutes the other was the same. You could actually see it growing before your eyes!

Luckily my mother recognized she was sick and got her to the doctors pretty quick. Turned out she had mumps, and she was fine again after a couple of weeks.

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