While many people associate a swollen jaw with a dental abscess, it isn't always a sign that you're facing a condition that requires the attention of an emergency dentist. A swollen jaw may indicate a non-dental disease process or a less urgent dental condition that requires a routine appointment. Understanding when this symptom constitutes a dental emergency can help you direct yourself towards the right services.
Why does the jaw swell?
Although it may appear as though the jaw is swelling, what you're seeing can also arise from surrounding tissues and organs. For example, mumps, otitis media, and facial cellulitis also cause the area to swell. In this case, you may need to see a doctor, who will soon determine whether you need a referral to an emergency dentist.
Some dental causes of swelling include:
- Necrosis around the pulp of the tooth
- Acute necrotising gingivitis
Not all of the above conditions are dental emergencies. Understanding when you should see an emergency dentist is vital, though.
How can you tell if your jaw swelling is a dental emergency?
Contrary to popular belief, a dental abscess won't always cause profuse jaw swelling. In many cases, a sudden swelling without systemic signs of infection such as fever is a warning sign that an abscess will soon appear; often as a result of advanced gingivitis. Should you experience such symptoms, making an appointment with a dentist within the next few days is appropriate.
But, there are signs that indicate you should see an emergency dentist:
- Your jaw swelling comes with unexplained tooth mobility that's been ongoing for at least three weeks
- You can see swelling and ulcers on the inside of your mouth, on the gums
- You have a high-grade fever
- The accompanying tooth is black
- Recent trauma to the jaw led to the swelling
In some cases, the above symptoms may result in referral to a maxillofacial specialist. Seeing an emergency dentist may not always be necessary, but these symptoms are strong indicators of dental emergencies.
What risks come with ignoring a potential dental emergency?
Your teeth and gums don't exist in a world of their own. They connect to blood vessels, tissues, and sinuses—all of which provide access to other areas of your body. While some dental emergencies can lead to bone loss in the jaw, others may result in conditions as serious as encephalitis.
If you're ever unsure as to whether your swollen jaw warrants the need to see an emergency dentist, give your local team a call. With advice over the phone, they can point you in the right direction.