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Dental and Oral Health (Adults)

Swollen jaw with no pain

07/02/2009

Question:

I have had a swollen jaw for about 6 months now and have seen 2 doctors and an ENT. First they thought it was a stone in my parotid gland but now the ENT says it may be the muscle around it. I am concerned mainly because there is absolutely no pian. Just a big swollen jaw. I have been to the dentist and my teeth and gums are in great shape, however I do gring in my sleep (with no pain ever). Could this be an indication of a bigger problem? Are there any other things it could be?

Answer:

Ideally, you should be seen by an oral pathologist for evaluation. What you are describing could be something as harmless as masseteric hypertrophy, a condition in which the masseter muscle (the big muscle on the outside back part of the lower jaw) gets bigger from overuse - sort of like the exaggerated muscles on body builders.

The fact that you are grinding your teeth at night could provide the explanation of why this muscle is bigger - it's simply getting more exercise. The other doctors may not be aware of this diagnosis, however, which is why you should see a specialist in oral disorders. Other less likely causes of enlargement could also be ruled out by the oral pathologist.

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Response by:

Carl M Allen, DDS, MSD Carl M Allen, DDS, MSD
Professor of Oral Pathology
College of Dentistry
The Ohio State University