Swellings of the mouth or a lump on the jawline can indicate many different conditions and have many different symptoms. They can be benign or cancerous. They may or may not be painful. The lump can grow slowly or rapidly.
Read on to learn more about what a lump on the jaw could mean and why you should consult your dentist if you discover one.
A severely abscessed tooth can cause swelling or a lump on your jawline. This condition is usually painful and the onset is rapid. The lump can be an enlarged lymph node that is reacting to the infection, or it can be drainage of the infection. The diagnosis is usually straightforward after the tooth generating the infection has been identified. The dentist may need to take X-rays to evaluate it. The treatment is either extraction or a root canal. Drainage of the area and antibiotics may also be required.
If the dentist cannot identify any teeth causing the lump on the jawline, other tests may be necessary. These include a head, neck and oral cancer examination and asking patients about their lifestyle risk factors. Smoking, chewing tobacco, drinking alcohol and exposure to the human papillomavirus (HPV) are all risk factors to oral cancer.
Imaging and Biopsy
Diagnosing a lump on the jawline may also require a CAT scan and an MRI. Then a biopsy may be necessary to determine the origin of the swelling and type of cells involved.
There are many things — benign or neoplastic — that can cause the swelling, according to a study in the Iranian Journal of Pathology. Causes include, but are not limited to, benign and malignant salivary gland tumors, cysts of soft tissue that are non-tooth-related, peripheral odontogenic tumors, granulomatous diseases, syndromes associated with intraoral swellings, cancerous growths not associated with salivary glands, and benign growths not associated with salivary glands.
Your dentist may refer you to an oral surgeon, an oral pathologist or a head and neck surgeon. After a diagnosis has been made, many medical professionals will join your cancer-fighting team. The treatment for a lump on the jawline will vary greatly, ranging from observation to cancer therapy.
Many of these swellings cannot be prevented, but you may be able to reduce your chance of oral cancer by eliminating your oral cancer risks. Consider quitting smoking and minimizing your alcohol consumption. You should see your dentist twice a year and have a head and neck cancer exam to identify any problems early.