Swollen Cheek: Causes and Treatments for Swelling on One Side of Face

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Swollen Cheek: Causes and Treatments for Swelling on One Side of Face
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A swollen cheek could be a result of a tooth abscess, allergic reaction, or infection. Swelling on one side of your face can make your cheeks look puffy, cause your neck to swell, and even close your eye. Usually, a swollen cheek is nothing to worry about and the swelling should go down when you get plenty of rest. However, cheek swelling on one side or both sides could be a serious medical condition.

Treating facial swelling on one side of the face usually involves using ice to bring down the swelling. If a tooth infection has caused a swollen cheek and cheekbone pain, your dentist may need to treat the problem or even have to extract the tooth. Swelling on one side of the face along with redness, a sore cheek, and a fever may need medical attention to treat a bacterial infection.

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Of course, a swollen cheek on one side of your face will make you very self-conscious.

In this article, I will examine what medical literature says about the reasons for facial swelling and inflammation. You will also find out what to do if one of your cheeks is swollen and you have other symptoms.

Symptoms of Swollen Face on One Side

It would be unusual if you have a swollen, puffy cheek without any other accompanying symptoms. Even if you can’t remember eating something that has caused an allergic reaction, the swollen cheek may be sore, itchy or tingling.

Some of the symptoms that can accompany swelling on one side of your face can include:

  • Cheekbone pain if your sinuses are inflamed or you have toothache
  • Swollen gums
  • Red patchy skin in cases of a bacterial infection
  • Nasal congestion or wheezing in cases of an allergic reaction
  • Neck swelling along with a swollen cheek due to a viral infection
  • Facial itching or hives
  • Lumps on your neck due to enlarged lymph nodes

Causes of Swollen Cheek or Swollen Face on One Side

What does it mean if you have a swollen cheek or you notice puffiness on just one side of your face? Here are the most likely causes.

Insect bite

An insect bite on the left side of your face or right side can cause your cheek to swell. Some people have worse reactions to bug bites and can experience severe facial swelling.

Dr. Charles Patrick Davis on eMedicineHealth says that swelling in the injured area is common after a spider bite, wasp or bee sting, or mosquito bite. The swelling in the cheek occurs because the body releases histamine which causes inflammation in the affected area. Other symptoms of an insect bite can include:1

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  • Pain around the bite area
  • Red patch of skin where the bite happened
  • Itching
  • Blistering of the skin

A severe reaction to a bee sting or other bug bite could have severe consequences like throat swelling, shortness of breath, or becoming unconscious.

Dr. Patrick Davis says that if the bite only results in a swollen raised red patch, taking an antihistamine should reduce your discomfort.

Allergic reaction

Puffy cheeks, facial swelling, or puffiness around the eyes may mean that you may have an allergic reaction. Common triggers of allergic reactions that affect the face are food, cosmetics, soaps, and medications.

For example, doctors from the Mayo Clinic say that allergic reactions to foods can cause swelling of the face, lips, or tongue. Food allergies could also cause:2

Similarly, Dr. Melissa Conrad Stöppler on eMedicineHealth says that allergic reactions to detergents, food, or cosmetics can cause angioedema. This causes large welts under the skin that usually cause facial swelling.3

Other symptoms of an allergic reaction can include:

  • Bumps on the face, lips, tongue, or neck
  • Bloodshot eyes and swelling of the eyelids
  • Red patches of itchy skin

Like with treating the symptoms of an insect bite, taking an antihistamine can help. If you notice your throat becomes tight (anaphylaxis), you should immediately seek medical help.

Cyst

A pronounced lump on your cheek could be a cyst that has formed and caused the surrounding tissue to swell.

Dr. Jerry R. Balentine on MedicineNet says that cysts can affect any part of the body. It is not uncommon that cysts affect the face and cause swelling of the skin. Sometimes, cysts can grow in size and cause a large unsightly lump on one side of your face. Depending on the size of the cyst on the cheek, doctors may remove the benign lump.4

Doctors from the Mayo Clinic say that some types of cysts on the cheeks can become filled with a thick, yellow substance. In some cases, the cysts can become infected and painful and this will cause swelling and tenderness in the affected area.5

Most doctors don’t advise trying to remove a cyst yourself. You can try putting a warm compress on the lump on your cheek 3-4 times a day. The heat can help to bring the cyst to a head to help drain it.

Skin infection

A bacterial skin infection on your cheek can cause one side of your face to swell up and look inflamed.

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Cellulitis is an infection of the skin that can affect any part of the body. Dr. Thomas E. Herchline, who specializes in infectious diseases, says that cellulitis can affect the facial area, especially around the eyes.6

Doctors from the Mayo Clinic say that areas of the body affected by cellulitis can become swollen and red with obvious signs of inflammation. The infected area of the face could be tender to touch and be sore.7

According to the journal Mayo Clinic Proceedings, if cellulitis affects the face, it can result in one-sided facial swelling. In one reported case, a man had swelling of the left cheek due to a bacterial skin infection. This was accompanied by chills, jawbone pain, and facial tenderness.8

Bacterial skin infections usually require medical treatment to prevent the infection from spreading. At the end of the article, you can find out what to do to help reduce pain and swelling of your cheek by using a cold compress.

Viral infection

Noticing that one cheek is puffy and larger than the other could mean that you have a viral infection like the flu or mumps.

Dr. Michael Friedman on WebMD says that some types of viral infections affect the salivary glands in the cheeks. This can cause swelling on one side of the face or both sides. If both cheeks swell, this is sometimes called “chipmunk cheeks.” Usually, viral infections that cause facial swelling start with a fever and headache.9

Other symptoms of a viral infection can include:

You can help prevent infections by keeping your immune system healthy. If the flu is causing inflammation of your airways or respiratory system, you can try one of my remedies to get rid of flu faster.

Swollen lymph nodes

Your lymphatic system helps to transport fluid in the body that fights infection. Enlarged lymph nodes are usually a sign of a viral infection, disease, or injury. In some cases, swollen lymph nodes may result in cheek swelling.

The journal Archives of Ophthalmology reported on a case of a man whose right cheek gradually become more and more swollen. It was found that the inflammation on one side of the face was a result of disease in his lymphatic system.10

Other causes of a puffy cheek

A swollen cheek can also be caused by a number of other, less-common, medical conditions.

The National Journal of Maxillofacial Surgery reports that some causes of face swelling on one side can be:11

  • Abscess in the gums that causes gum swelling, facial pain, and difficulty opening the mouth
  • Lipoma – a harmless lump of fat that can cause a swollen lump in one cheek
  • Disease of the lymphatic system
  • Tumor in the salivary glands or facial muscles

Cheekbone Pain Causes

Along with one of your cheeks swelling, you might find that you also have a sore cheekbone. Here are a few of the most common causes of a swollen cheek with cheekbone pain.

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Sinusitis

Your sinuses are located on each side of your nose, in your forehead, and around your eyes. Inflammation of your sinuses can result in facial swelling, pain around the eye socket, and pain in your cheekbone.

Doctors from Harvard Medical School report that swelling and cheekbone pain can occur if the maxillary sinuses are affected. This can cause pain under the cheeks, pain near the ear, and jawbone pain.12

If you are bothered by blocked sinuses, you can try inhaling eucalyptus oil or other essential oils to loosen nasal mucus and clear your airways. Some of the other best remedies for sinus infections include rinsing your sinuses with a neti pot or making a honey and apple cider vinegar drink.

Temporomandibular disorders (TMD)

Dysfunction with your jawbone can cause a swollen cheek and cheekbone pain. The place where your jawbone connects to your skull is behind your cheeks and called the temporomandibular joint.

According to Doctor of Dental Surgery, Dr. Michael Freidman, problems with your temporomandibular joint (TMJ) can cause facial swelling on one side. This is usually accompanied by tenderness in your cheekbone and pain when opening your mouth. Other symptoms of TMD can include:13

Swelling of Cheek Due to Toothache

A cavity in your tooth or infection in your gums can cause a severe toothache that may cause your left cheek or right cheek to swell up and become sore.

According to Dr. Steven B. Horne from the Torrey Pines Dental Arts, tooth decay, dental abscesses, or periodontal disease can result in varying degrees of tooth pain. Severe inflammation of the gums can cause swelling of the cheek or jaw.14

Sometimes, severe toothache can also be similar to pain from sinusitis or temporomandibular joint disorder.

Although pain from a toothache may come and go, if you have facial swelling or gum swelling, you should visit your dentist. The dentist will carry out an examination and provide the best course of treatment to relieve the pain and cheek swelling.

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Home Remedies for Swollen Face from Tooth Infection

Although your dentist is the best person to remedy a tooth infection, you need to deal with the pain and swollen face until your appointment.

Apply ice

One way to bring down swelling of a puffy cheek is to apply an ice pack.

Dr. Michael Friedman (quoted earlier) says that a cold compress applied to your cheek can help to reduce swelling and pain. This cold pack helps to reduce blood flow to the affected area and can help prevent an abscess from becoming more infected.15

How to treat a swollen cheek from tooth infection:

  1. Crush up some ice and place it in a sealable plastic bag. Wrap in a dishtowel.
  2. Place the cold compress on the sore cheek and hold for up to 15 minutes.
  3. Repeat 3-4 times a day to help keep the pain at bay and reduce facial swelling.

The best way to avoid jaw pain and cheek swelling from a tooth infection is to care for your dental health. Using proper brushing methods can remove bacteria from your gums and help prevent gum infections naturally.

Home Remedies for Abscess Tooth Causing Swollen Face

If a tooth abscess is causing mouth swelling inside your cheek, it’s important to seek prompt dental attention. A dentist will first clear the infection and then fix or remove the tooth to prevent further risk of infection.

Dental surgeon Dr. Donna S. Bautista says that you shouldn’t try to treat an abscessed tooth at home. However, you can try using a natural rinse to reduce the throbbing toothache and slow down the spread of any infection.16

How to treat a swollen face caused by tooth abscess:

  1. Mix ½ teaspoon salt in a cup of warm water.
  2. Take a mouthful of the remedy and swish it around your mouth for a few minutes to help kill bacteria and reduce pain.
  3. Spit out.
  4. Repeat the mouth rinse 3 or 4 times a day until you can get to your dental appointment.

Other ways to get relief from toothache naturally include making a paste of minced garlic and aloe vera or biting on a cotton ball that has clove oil on it.

Other Home Treatments for Swelling on One Side of Face

To help the swelling on your cheek to go down, there are a number of other things that you can try.

  • Resist the urge to scratch. Scratching an itchy puffy cheek can make the swelling worse by irritating the skin. You may end up in a scratch-itch cycle where the itch becomes unbearable.
  • Antihistamines. Although not a natural cure for cheek puffiness, an antihistamine can help to quickly reduce swelling, itching, and redness caused by an allergic reaction.

When to See a Doctor

Most cases where one of your cheeks swells and becomes puffy resolve themselves in a few days. However, in some circumstances, you need to see a doctor for professional medical advice.

Doctors from the University of Florida recommend seeing a doctor for facial swelling in the following circumstances:17

  • One side of your face is swollen and you have trouble breathing
  • The facial swelling on one side of your face is especially severe
  • Along with a swollen cheek, you also have a fever, redness, or tenderness of the cheekbone or cheek
  • The lump inside the cheek tissue doesn’t go away after a week or two18
  • Trouble opening your mouth or swallowing

Read my other related articles:

Medical Sources

  1. eMedicineHealth. Insect bites.
  2. MayoClinic. Food allergy.
  3. eMedicineHealth. Hives and angioedema.
  4. MedicineNet. Cysts.
  5. MayoClinic. Epidermoid cysts.
  6. Medscape. Cellulitis.
  7. MayoClinic. Cellulitis.
  8. Mayo Clin Proc. 2010 May; 85(5): e31–e34.
  9. WebMD. Salivary gland problems.
  10. Arch Ophthalmol2009;127(8):1068-1070.
  11. Natl J Maxillofac Surg. 2017 Jul-Dec; 8(2): 157–161.
  12. HealthHarvard. Acute sinusitis.
  13. WebMD. Temporomandibular joint disorders.
  14. eMedicineHealth. Toothache.
  15. WebMD. Home remedies for toothache.
  16. MedicineNet. Abscessed tooth.
  17. UFHealth. Facial swelling.
  18. CancerOrg. Signs and symptoms of salivary gland cancer.
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