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Causes of Swollen Cheeks

Causes of Swollen Cheeks

Dental problems and blunt trauma to the face could cause the cheeks to swell. This HealthHearty write-up lists out the contributing factors for cheek swelling.
HealthHearty Staff
Last Updated: Apr 23, 2018
More often than not, cheek swelling is observed in individuals who complain of tooth ache. However, there can be several other reasons behind the swelling. The swelling might not just be a cause of cosmetic concern, the affected individual could also experience other symptoms. It is advisable to seek medical assistance, and inform your healthcare provider about these symptoms. In some cases, the underlying cause can be easily identified. However, in some cases, the healthcare provider might ask the patient to get some diagnostic tests done. The following section provides information on the conditions that might cause facial swelling.
Contributing Factors
Dental Problems
Tooth decay is often attributed to poor oral hygiene. When one doesn't brush and floss the teeth regularly, and follows a diet that is very rich in sugar, it can lead to the formation of plaque. Plaque is a layer of mucus and bacteria that deposits on the teeth. When the bacteria feed on sugar, they make acids that can damage the enamel coating of the teeth, which might eventually lead to tooth decay. At times, pus or the infected material might enter the pulp (living tissue at center of the tooth) through the openings in the tooth enamel, thereby causing a dental abscess. The infection could even spread from the root of the tooth to the bones that support the tooth. When the abscess forms under the tooth, it is referred to as periapical abscess. The dental abscess that forms in the supporting gum and bone is called periodontal abscess. The infection can cause the gum over the infected tooth to swell.
Stomatitis
Cheek biting, wearing ill-fitting dentures, or irritation to the mucous membranes in the mouth due to jagged teeth or braces could cause stomatitis (inflammation of the soft tissue structures of the mouth), which might cause the cheeks to swell.
Blunt Trauma
Blunt trauma is described as a type of physical trauma caused to a body part by either an impact or physical attack. It should not be mistaken for penetrating trauma, wherein an object penetrates the body (bullet, knife, etc.). It is also referred to as blunt injury, blunt force trauma, or non-penetrating trauma. When a person receives a blow to the face (cheek), the facial tissues get damaged, and undergo discoloration due to improper flow of blood. Under such circumstances, the affected cheek may swell and become dark.
Allergic Reaction
An allergic reaction is defined as the hypersensitivity response of the body's immune system to a substance which is otherwise harmless in nature. Such substances are known as allergens. Basically, when one is exposed to a substance that the body considers to be a foreign invader, the mast cells release histamine. This gives rise to symptoms such as hives, runny nose, watery eyes, constriction of bronchi, facial swelling, swollen tongue, etc. In severe cases, one might develop anaphylaxis, which is a life-threatening allergic reaction.
Sialadenitis
Salivary glands comprise two parotid glands (located in each cheek over the jaw in front of the ears), two submandibular glands (located at the back of the mouth on both sides of the jaw), and two sublingual glands (located under the floor of the mouth). These perform the function of secreting saliva in the mouth. The parotid glands are the largest of the three. The term 'sialadenitis' refers to the infection of salivary glands. It is characterized by inflammation or enlargement of one or more of the salivary glands. This condition is characterized by redness, tenderness, pain, and localized swelling of the affected area. The inflammation of parotid glands could cause cheek swelling.
Enlarged Lymph Nodes
Lymphadenopathy is defined as the enlargement of lymph nodes, which are small, bean-shaped masses of lymphatic tissue. They filter the lymph fluid and trap disease-causing agents, which are then destroyed by cells called lymphocytes. At times, the lymph glands can swell up due to an infection. For instance, a tooth infection can cause lymph nodes in the neck to swell, which in turn may cause facial swelling. Lymph nodes in the neck could even enlarge due to oral cancer. Cancer is a serious disease wherein abnormal and uncontrollable division of cells gives rise to the formation of a malignant tumor. Chewing tobacco is one of the most common reasons behind the development of oral cancer.
Treatment Options
The treatment would depend on the underlying cause.
Drug therapy, which might involve the use of analgesics and anti-inflammatory drugs, would help in alleviating pain and swelling.
Application of cold compresses might help if the swelling is due to blunt trauma.
➞ Antibiotics might be prescribed if the swelling is caused by a bacterial infection.
➞ In case of an allergic reaction, the use of antihistamines would help alleviate the symptoms.
Though antibiotics, antihistamines, and anti-inflammatory drugs are available over the counter, it is advisable to consult a doctor for the proper diagnosis and treatment of the underlying medical condition. Since tooth infections are often responsible for facial swelling, one must follow a proper oral hygiene regimen.
Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is solely for educating the reader. It is not intended to be a substitute for the advice of a medical expert.