What causes cheek swelling?

Cheek swelling commonly arises from dermatological (skin) conditions, such as excessive oil accumulation which can lead to acne; a cyst (benign sac that contains fluid, air, or other materials); skin infections; or skin growths such as keloids, which develop when scars form excess tissue. Other causes of cheek swelling include recent surgery, injury, or tooth abscess.

In some cases, cheek swelling can be a symptom of a serious allergic reaction that should be immediately evaluated in a medical setting. If accompanied by painful swelling of the jaws and difficulty chewing, cheek swelling may be a symptom of mumps, a serious viral infection.

Dermatological causes of cheek swelling

Cheek swelling may be caused by a variety of skin problems including:

  • Acne
  • Boils
  • Cellulitis (a common bacterial skin infection)
  • Ingrown hairs
  • Keloids (excess scar tissue)
  • Rosacea (chronic redness of the skin)
  • Sebaceous cyst (a benign sac under the skin that contains a white, oily material)
  • Seborrhea (a common red, itchy rash with white scales)

Other causes of cheek swelling

Cheek swelling may also be caused by acute fluid accumulation and other tissue changes caused by:

  • Allergic reaction
  • Burns
  • Cancer of the skin, salivary glands, or oral cavity
  • Hereditary angioedema (a serious genetic disorder that causes periodic swelling of the throat and other areas)
  • Inflammation or infection of the salivary glands (sialoadenitis)
  • Lymphadenopathy (swelling of lymph nodes in front of the ear)
  • Malnutrition
  • Medication side effects
  • Mumps (a systemic viral infection affecting the salivary glands)
  • Obstruction of the salivary gland ducts by stones (sialolithiasis)
  • Recent surgery
  • Recent trauma or injury to the face
  • Tooth abscess
  • Weight gain or obesity

Serious or life-threatening causes of cheek swelling

In some cases, cheek swelling may be a symptom of a serious or life-threatening condition that should be immediately evaluated in an emergency setting. These include:

  • Anaphylaxis (a severe allergic reaction)
  • Angioedema (a severe swelling beneath the skin that can cause breathing difficulty)

Questions for diagnosing the cause of cheek swelling

To diagnose your condition, your doctor or licensed health care practitioner will ask you several questions related to your cheek swelling including:

  • How long have your cheeks been swollen?
  • Do you have any allergies?
  • Do you have any other symptoms?
  • Have you hurt your cheeks recently?
  • Is your cheek swelling painful?
  • Does anything make your cheek swelling feel better?
  • What medications are you taking?

What are the potential complications of cheek swelling?

Cheek swelling can usually be treated with simple home remedies such as cold compresses and over-the-counter anti-inflammatory drugs. In cases of a cyst or keloid (excess scar tissue), medical treatment may be required. Because cheek swelling can be due to serious conditions such as a severe allergic reaction or mumps, failure to seek treatment can result in serious complications and permanent damage. Once the underlying cause is diagnosed, it is important for you to follow the treatment plan that you and your health care professional design specifically for you to reduce the risk of potential complications including:

  • Cheek scarring
  • Pain that does not respond to treatment (intractable pain)
  • Severe breathing problems
  • Severe infections
  • Spread of cancer
  • Spread of infection


  1. Facial swelling. MedlinePlus, a service of the National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health. http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/003105.htm.
  2. Facial swelling. FamilyDoctor.org. http://familydoctor.org/familydoctor/en/health-tools/search-by-symptom/facial-swelling.html.
  3. Domino FJ (Ed.) Five Minute Clinical Consult. Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, 2013.

What is cheek swelling?

Cheek swelling is a symptom that arises when the cheek develops a lump or becomes larger than normal. It may occur for many reasons, but usually arises from the accumulation of fluid in the tissues of the cheeks.

Mild swelling of the cheeks, which could be due to a recent injury to the face or a recent surgery, may go away on its own and is typically not a problem. In more serious... Read more about cheek swellingintroduction


What other symptoms might occur with cheek swelling?

Cheek swelling may accompany other symptoms, which vary depending on the underlying disease, disorder or condition.

Skin symptoms that may occur along with cheek swelling

Cheek swelling may accompany other symptoms affecting the skin including:

  • Bleeding or bruising
  • Read more about cheek swellingsymptoms

Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS Last Annual Review Date: Aug 9, 2013 Copyright: © Copyright 2014 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Health Grades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the HealthGrades User Agreement.

This Article is Filed Under: Mouth, Teeth and Oral Health