Hard lump on jaw line

This is a tender spot on your lower jaw. It’s caused by a slow-healing infection, called gingivitis, or gum inflammation. This inflammation causes pockets to form on your gumline, where pus collects. This pus is trapped between your gums. This area can become sore, red, and swollen.

Over time, the swelling can cause your gums and jawline to become inflamed.

If you notice any of these signs of an infection, see a dentist. Your dentist can recommend an over-the-counter (OTC) mouthwash to help reduce the swelling and symptoms.

Other possible causes

Other possible causes include:

  • A bite that doesn’t fit properly
  • A broken or fractured tooth
  • An abscess, a pocket of pus that fills with an infection
  • An injury to your jaw
  • An abscess on your jaw
  • A tooth abscess
  • A tooth abscess that doesn’t go away
  • An injury to your gums
  • A toothache

How is it diagnosed?

If your dentist thinks you might have an abscess from a tooth, they’ll start by asking you about your symptoms and medical history. They will also take a look at your mouth.

If your dentist suspects you might have an abscess from a tooth, they will take a small sample of the pus to send to a laboratory. The laboratory will examine the sample under a microscope. They’ll also send a sample of the pus to a lab for a bacterial culture.

If the lab finds a bacteria that can cause an infection, they’ll send the sample to a doctor. The doctor will look at the sample under a microscope and send it to a lab to test for the bacteria that causes the infection.

If the test results suggest that you have a bacterial infection, your dentist will probably refer you to an oral surgeon.

How is it treated?

Treatment for an abscess caused by a tooth depends on the cause.

Abscess from a broken tooth

If the abscess is caused by a broken tooth, the dentist may remove the abscess and the root. This may be done if you have severe pain or if you have an abscess on your jawline. This is called an open reduction.

Open reduction is an emergency procedure. It’s done in an emergency room.

If the tooth is very broken, your dentist may wait several days before performing an open reduction. This gives the infection time to heal.

If the abscess is on your jawline, the dentist may shave off the top of your jaw to get to the abscess.

If the abscess is not on your jawline, your dentist will drain the pus from the abscess.

If your dentist is able to drain the pus, they’ll make a small incision and remove the pus. This will help the abscess heal faster. Your dentist will close your incision with stitches and apply a bandage.

If your dentist can’t drain the abscess, they’ll do the following:

  • Apply a cold pack to the area.
  • Remove the tooth that caused the abscess, if possible.
  • Apply pressure to the area to help the pus drain.
  • Clean the area with an antiseptic.
  • Apply a topical antibiotic ointment.
  • Apply a topical antibiotic ointment to the area.

If you have an abscess from a broken tooth, your dentist may need to remove the tooth. This is called an extraction.

Abscess from a root

If the abscess on your jawline is caused by a root, your dentist may perform surgery to remove the infected tooth and the root. This is called an extraction.

Abscess from a gingivitis infection

If you have a gingivitis infection, your dentist may prescribe an antibiotic. If you’re prescribed an antibiotic, your dentist may also prescribe an antibiotic to clean the area.

This treatment can take several weeks. It’s often done before a tooth extraction.

In the meantime, you’ll need to see a dentist every few days for a cleaning.

If your infection goes away, your dentist may prescribe a more powerful antibiotic.

Abscess from a tooth abscess

If you have an abscess on your jawline, your dentist may drain the abscess. This is called a root canal.

If you have an abscess from a tooth, your dentist may extract the tooth, and they’ll close your incision with stitches.

If your abscess doesn’t go away or you have a bad reaction to oral antibiotics, your dentist may prescribe an antibiotic for you.

How can I make sure it doesn’t happen again?

Brushing and flossing your teeth twice a day is the best way to prevent an abscess from a tooth.

But if you have any of the symptoms of an abscess, see a dentist right away.

What’s the long-term outlook?

Treating the cause of an abscess usually means the infection will go away.

Bacteria usually causes an abscess. Most of the time, the infection will go away on its own.

If the cause is an infection from decay, the infection will likely return.

If the cause is an infection from an injury, the infection will go away in a few days or weeks.

If the cause is an infection from a broken tooth, the infection will likely go away on its’ own.

Many abscesses don’t go away on their own. Your dentist can drain the infection and close the incision.

If an abscess doesn’t go away, your dentist will prescribe an antibiotic. You’ll need to take this antibiotic for a few weeks or months.

If your infection does go away, your dentist may prescribe more powerful antibiotics.

If an abscess on your jawline goes away with antibiotics, it usually doesn’t come back.

If it does come back, you’ll likely need an extraction or a root canal.

The takeaway

An abscess from a broken tooth is a serious infection that can be painful.

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