Swollen Gland Under Jaw

A swollen gland under jaw can be a cause for worry, but most of the time it is caused by something simple, and will settle down by itself within 2 weeks.

Any time you get a swelling somewhere, it's natural to worry. Last year I had a small lump come up in my arm pit. I was pretty sure it was an infected sweat gland, but I was concerned about it. After 3 days on antibiotics, it had gone down, but it was a worrying time.

A swelling under your jaw is more common, and it should always be taken seriously.

There are 2 possible areas that a swelling under your jaw could be in;

either a true swollen gland - if you are SURE it is the gland that is swollen.


it could also be an abscess from a tooth that is causing the swelling - NOT the gland.

If it really IS the gland that is swollen, it will be what is called the "lymph" gland. There are many lymph glands around the body, and there are some in your neck and under the lower jaw bone.

Swollen Gland Under Jaw

Your lymph network is part of the human body's defence system against bacteria and virus infections. The glands work by acting as filters; they filter out bacteria and viruses that are circulating in your body before they can set up a full-body infection.

SO, when one of both of the lymph glands under the jaw swell up, it is usually in response to bacteria or viruses that are circulating around in your body. It is not a localised little infection just within the gland. It is a sign that your immune system is fighting something much bigger.

Rarely, swollen lymph nodes are caused by cancer. In this case, the swelling is quite hard, seems to be fixed in position (ie. you can't move the swelling around), and they tend to grow in size quite quickly.

swollen gland under jawneck swelling

Symptoms with a Swollen Gland Under Jaw

What else could you notice when you have a swollen gland under jaw?

  • You may have some swelling and tenderness in other lymph glands, like under your armpits and in your neck.
  • You may also notice some other signs of an infection;
  • a runny nose
  • a common cold
  • a sore throat and earache
  • a fever - (a high temperature)sweating at night.

Should you see a doctor?

Most swollen glands under the jaw will settle down within 2 weeks. You can help things along by putting a heat pack on the skin over the swelling, for 5 minutes at a time, and taking anti-inflammatory medications like ibuprofen.

You might want to see your doctor if you notice several of the following occurring together;

  • The swollen gland under jaw has come up for no obvious reason. ie. you don't have any other symptoms such as a runny nose, sore throat, ear ache, or other tender lymph glands in your body.
  • The swelling continues to get bigger, or you've had it for more than four weeks.
  • The swelling feels rubbery or hard, and seems to be "fixed" in one place.
  • You also have a lingering high temperature, night sweats or you're losing weight for no obvious reason.

As always, if you're having difficulty swallowing or breathing, you should get yourself along to your nearest doctor, Emergency Room or hospital.

Here are some less common causes of lymph gland swelling;

  • Tuberculosis.
  • Some sexually transmitted infections, ie. syphilis.
  • Toxoplasmosis — this a a parasite infection. You can get it from touching the poo of an infected cat, and also from eating under-cooked meat.

Rare Cancers

  • Lymphoma — this is a cancer that affects your lymph system.
  • Leukemia — this is a cancer of your bone marrow and lymphatic system.
  • Rarely, you might get another type of cancer elsewhere in the body that has "seeded" to lymph glands.

A swollen gland under jaw rarely needs emergency hospital treatment. BUT there are some exceptions; A severely infected lymph gland that needs to be drained, or if you are having severe pain.

If a swollen lymph node in the neck makes breathing or swallowing difficult, seek medical treatment immediately.

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Page written by dentist Dr. Richard Mitchell

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