What Causes Cheek Swelling?

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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

    A large pair of salivary glands known as the parotid glands are located in the cheeks, reports the National Institutes of Health (NIH). 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. In addition to cheek swelling, people with tooth abscesses may have pain, fever, tooth sensitivity or a bad taste in the mouth, reports the Mayo Clinic.
  • 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

    Sinusitis, also known as a sinus infection, is a common condition that can make your cheeks swollen, explains the U.K.'s National Health Service. 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 NIH recommends seeing a medical professional. 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. For example, if it's determined that the swelling is a symptom of an abscessed tooth, treatments may include antibiotics or a root canal, explains the Mayo Clinic.

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.

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  • About 90 percent of people with mouth cancer and some types of throat cancer have used tobacco. The risk of developing these cancers increases as people smoke or chew more often or for a longer time.

  • Smokers are six times more likely than nonsmokers to develop these cancers.

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