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What Causes Cheek Swelling?

Noticing that your cheeks are swollen can be upsetting. Not only can the swelling be uncomfortable, but it might be noticeable to others. If your cheeks are swollen, you may wonder what prompted it and what you can do about it.

Common Causes of Cheek Swelling

There are many possible causes of swollen cheeks. In some cases, the swelling may result from an injury or trauma, such as a fall or burn. It may also occur after surgery to the jaw or other nearby areas. Sometimes, the swelling is unilateral, which means it occurs on just one side of the face, while other times, it's bilateral, meaning both sides of the face are affected. Your doctor or dentist will assess your symptoms against the following possible causes to determine the source of the swelling.

  • Salivary Gland Infection:An article in Jagran Josh explains that salivary glands are a group of organs present in our mouth that secretes saliva. There are three pairs of glands through which most of the saliva is secreted. These glands are parotid, submandibular and sublingual. Parotid glands are the largest salivary gland. They are located within each of our cheeks. In our oral cavity, they are responsible for the secretion of about 20% of saliva. If these glands become infected, they can swell, causing the appearance of swollen cheeks. Sometimes, the infection affects just one of the glands, but if both glands are involved, the infection is called parotitis or parotiditis.
  • Tooth Abscess: A tooth abscess may lead to cheek swelling. This infection occurs when bacteria enters the pulp of a tooth, which may happen if you have a cracked tooth or a large cavity that hasn't been treated. According to e-Dant Seva, common signs and symptoms of dental abscess includes throbbing pain and swelling, warmth around the area and if it perforates sinus drainage is present. Therefore timely treatment is important to prevent the pus from spreading into surrounding vital structures and serious complications.
  • Angioedema: Angioedema, a skin reaction, may be associated with swollen cheeks, too. This reaction can be triggered by foods, medications and common allergens, such as pollen, explains the Mayo Clinic. People with angioedema may experience swelling around their eyes, lips or cheeks. The affected areas can also be red, painful or warm.
  • Sinus Infection: The National Health Portal of India explains that sinusitis can be caused by infection, but can also be caused by allergy and irritation of the sinuses. A sinus is a hollow, air-filled cavity. Humans have four pairs of sinuses. They are - (1) Frontal sinus (in forehead); (2) Maxillary sinus (behind cheeks); (3) Ethmoid sinuses (between the eyes); (4) Sphenoid sinus (deep behind the ethmoids). This infection may develop after a cold or flu and will usually go away on its own within a few weeks. In addition to swollen cheeks, people with sinusitis may have pain, headache, fever, a blocked nose or even a toothache.

Home Remedies for Swollen Cheeks

If you have swollen cheeks, you may wonder if there's anything you can do at home to make yourself more comfortable. The NIH explains that raising the head of your bed or elevating your head with extra pillows can help reduce facial swelling. If the swelling began after an injury, the NIH suggests applying a cold compress.

However, home remedies aren't always enough. If the swelling doesn't go away, or if it gets worse, the National Health Portal of India recommends that an oral infection, like tooth abscess is a serious condition and can cause problems in other areas of the body. Therefore, seeking medical help is essential. Swelling that's sudden, painful or accompanied by a fever should always be evaluated by a doctor or dentist. If your facial swelling is making it hard for you to breathe, seek emergency treatment.

Diagnosis and Treatment

There are many possible causes of swollen cheeks, and a doctor or dentist can evaluate your cheeks, face and oral cavity to determine the source of the swelling. This evaluation will include asking questions about your medical history, such as when the swelling began, as well as evaluating your other symptoms. They may also ask questions about your allergies and current medications.

After determining the cause of the swelling, your doctor or dentist can recommend an appropriate treatment, if necessary. Treatment will vary based on the cause of the swelling. Healthy Mouth Healthy Body explains that an abscess is a pus-filled pocket that forms at the end of the roots of the tooth. An abscess occurs when the infection spreads all the way past the ends of the roots of the tooth. Sometimes a cavity is just too deep to be fixed with a filling and may require a root canal.

Swollen cheeks can be uncomfortable, and they can be caused by many different conditions. If you're concerned about swelling in your cheeks or elsewhere on your body, talk to your doctor or dentist.

This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.