Why Is My Cheek Swollen and Sore on One Side?

Reviewed on 11/2/2022

10 Causes of Swelling on the Face

A women with a swollen cheek holds her face in pain
Swelling in the cheek on one side has many causes, including dental abscess, injury to the face, benign fatty tumor (lipoma), swollen lymph nodes (lymphadenopathy), cysts, infection, and others.

There are many possible causes of cheek swelling and soreness on one side of the face. Some are benign and some can be serious.

Common causes for your cheek to be swollen and sore on one side include: 

  • Dental abscess
  • Injury to the face
    • May be caused by:
      • Sports injuries
      • Motor vehicle crashes
      • Wounds 
      • Violence 
  • Benign fatty tumor (lipoma)
    • The cause is not completely understood
    • May be caused by:
      • A genetic defect
      • Inherited from family members
      • Sedentary lifestyle
  • Swollen lymph nodes (lymphadenopathy)
    • May be caused by:
      • Infections
      • Cancer in the lymphatic system, such as Hodgkin disease
  • Cysts
    • The skin produces a protein called keratin which is usually shed, but in some cases, it goes deeper into the skin and forms a sac
  • Infection (cellulitis)
    • Caused by bacteria
  • Swelling of gum tissue surrounding the wisdom teeth (pericoronitis)
    • Caused by a wisdom tooth that has failed to come in or has only partially erupted, leaving a flap of gum tissue that collects food particles and other debris
  • Mumps
    • Caused by the mumps virus
  • Salivary gland obstruction 
    • Often caused by a stone in salivary duct 
    • Can cause an infection (sialadenitis)
  • Salivary gland tumor (rare)
    • The cause is unknown but risk factors may include:
      • Older age
      • Radiation therapy to the head and neck
      • Exposure to certain substances at work

What Are Symptoms of Cheek Swelling and Soreness on One Side?

In addition to swelling and soreness, symptoms of cheek swelling and soreness on one side of the face depend on the cause.

  • Dental abscess
    • Severe toothache or gum pain 
    • Redness inside the mouth, or outside the mouth on the face or jaw
    • Sensitivity to hot or cold food and drink in the affected area
    • Bad taste in the mouth
    • Difficulty opening the mouth and chewing food
    • Fever
  • Injury to the face
    • Changes in feeling over the face
    • Swelling or bruising around the eyes that may cause vision problems 
    • Missing teeth
    • Deformed or uneven face or facial bones
    • Difficulty breathing through the nose due to swelling and bleeding
  • Benign fatty tumor (lipoma)
    • Roundish masses that feel soft and rubbery just under the skin and can be moved with gentle pushing
    • Usually do not hurt
  • Swollen lymph nodes (lymphadenopathy)
    • Enlarged lumps that may be felt in the neck, back of the head, or other locations of lymph nodes
    • Lymph node tenderness 
    • Warmth or redness of the skin over the lymph nodes
    • Fever
  • Cysts
    • A round, dome-shaped lump that can range in size from smaller than a pea to a few centimeters across
    • May be yellow or white, with a small dark plug 
    • It may be possible to squeeze out pus if there is an infection
    • Usually not painful but can become tender and red if it becomes infected
  • Infection (cellulitis)
    • A red, swollen, and painful area of skin that is warm and tender to the touch
    • The skin may look pitted, like an orange peel, or blisters may occur on the affected skin
    • Fever and chills
  • Swelling of the gum tissue surrounding the wisdom teeth (pericoronitis)
    • Painful, swollen gum tissue near the affected tooth
    • Difficulty biting down in the area without hitting the swollen tissue 
    • Unpleasant smell or taste in your mouth
    • Discharge of pus in the area
    • Swollen lymph nodes
    • Jaw spasms
  • Mumps
    • A tender, swollen jaw 
    • Fever
    • Headache
    • Muscle aches
    • Tiredness
    • Loss of appetite
  • Salivary gland obstruction 
    • Lump under one side of the jaw
    • Tenderness and pain
    • Redness to cheek
    • Sometimes a small white stone is seen inside the mouth in the upper cheek area
  • Salivary gland tumor (rare)
    • A lump (usually painless) in the area of the ear, cheek, jaw, lip, or inside the mouth
    • Trouble swallowing
    • Fluid draining from the ear
    • Trouble opening the mouth widely
    • Facial numbness or weakness 
    • Pain in the face that does not go away

What Is the Treatment for Cheek Swelling and Soreness on One Side?

  • Dental abscess
    • A dentist will drain away the pus
    • Root canal
    • Tooth extraction
    • Pain medicines
    • Antibiotics for infection
  • Injury to the face
    • Ice
    • Pain medicines
    • Bandages to control bleeding
    • Surgery may be needed if the injury inhibits normal function or causes deformity
  • Benign fatty tumor (lipoma)
    • Often no treatment is needed if there are no symptoms but the lipoma should be monitored
    • Surgical removal of the lipoma (excision)
  • Swollen lymph nodes (lymphadenopathy)
    • Monitoring to check the size and location of the enlarged nodes
    • Antibiotics to treat bacterial infection
    • Medications or procedures to treat other conditions that may have caused the lymph node enlargement
  • Cysts
    • Antibiotics if the cyst is infected
    • Cyst removal with local anesthetic
  • Infection (cellulitis)
    • Oral antibiotics, or for severe infections, intravenous (IV) antibiotics 
  • Swelling of gum tissue surrounding the wisdom teeth (pericoronitis)
    • Accumulated food particles and other debris from the area are flushed away 
    • Antibiotics to treat the infection
    • Pain medicines
    • Removal of the flap of gum tissue
    • Wisdom tooth extraction
  • Mumps
    • Is usually self-limiting and goes away on its own within about 2 weeks
    • Home treatment to relive symptoms may include:
    • Adequate oral fluid intake and hydration 
    • Bed rest
    • Avoid acidic foods 
    • Pain relievers 
    • Topical application of warm or cold packs to the swollen parotid area 
  • Salivary gland obstruction 
    • Sour lozenges 
    • Topical application of warm or cold packs to the swollen cheek area 
    • Antibiotics
    • Removal of the stone or obstruction
    • Surgery
  • Salivary gland tumor (rare)
    • Surgery 
    • Radiation therapy 
    • Chemotherapy 
    • Radiosensitizers (being tested in clinical trials)

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Reviewed on 11/2/2022

Image source: iStock Images