A lump under your jaw can be a swollen lymph node. But it may also be an indicator of another health condition, such as a growth or cyst.
A lump on your jawline that is soft and can be moved with your fingers is usually not a reason to be concerned and will often go away on its own.
But there are a few causes of a movable lump on your jawbone that may indicate that you need to call a doctor. Let’s take a look at seven of the most common causes of this symptom.
What should I be looking for?
You may be able to determine what’s causing the lump on your jawbone based on other symptoms that you’ve noticed along with the lump.
The location of the lump, any pain it is causing you, and underlying risk factors you may have for other conditions can help decide what’s going on and whether you need to seek medical attention.
Lymph glands are located underneath your skin, including one on each side of your neck bordering your jawline.
Your lymph nodes are glands that store white blood cells. When you’re fighting an infection, these glands can become swollen as your body’s immune system works overtime to help fight it.
You may notice the swelling in the form of a movable lump on one or both sides of your jaw. These lumps may feel soft but be painful or sore to the touch.
Chills, fever, or a runny nose can also indicate that you’re experiencing a swollen lymph node.
Exposure to allergens and allergic reactions can cause swelling in your lymph nodes and other parts of your face, including near your jawline.
If you are experiencing seasonal or environmental allergy symptoms in addition to a movable lump on your jawbone, allergies may be the cause.
An allergic reaction to food or medication can also cause your sinuses and glands along the jawline to swell. Lumps on your jaw caused by allergies may feel inflamed, irritated, or sore.
Fibromas are soft tissue tumors. These tumors can appear anywhere on your body and are made of your body’s natural tissue, meaning that they aren’t cancerous.
A condition called ossifying fibroma refers to benign tumors that contain tissue as well as bone. Ossifying fibromas develop from the part of your jaw where your teeth develop.
Ossifying fibromas can cause noticeable swelling along with a soft lump on your jawbone on one side.
A lipoma is a benign growth made up of a fat deposit underneath your skin. It’s not uncommon for these types of growths to show up on your neck or jaw.
Lipomas are soft and colorless, and often they don’t cause you any pain. Lipomas may grow slowly over time, but they don’t pose any health risk.
People between the ages of 40 and 60 as well as people with Cowden syndrome are at a higher risk for developing lipomas.
A cyst is a sac that is filled with fluid and other material.
Soft, movable cysts may form on your jawline. Cysts typically do not cause any other symptoms, but they can sometimes become inflamed and cause some discomfort or pain.
A dentigerous cyst specifically develops on your jawbone. This kind of cyst contains cells your body originally created for the formation of your teeth.
An abscessed tooth is a bacterial infection that can form in different parts of your mouth.
As your body fights the infection, it can put pressure on your lymphatic system and cause swollen lymph nodes on one or both sides of your jaw.
An abscessed tooth causes pain that can spread to your neck and jaw. This type of infection needs to be treated by your dentist right away.
Certain types of cancer can show up as malignant tumors on your jaw.
In most cases, these tumors are not soft and moveable. But at least one type of cancer (liposarcoma) can cause tumors that can feel soft and moveable.
Malignant tumors are not typically painful to the touch.
A movable lump on your jaw is most likely related to allergies or an infection and doesn’t typically require medical attention.
But there are several symptoms that indicate that it’s time to call your doctor:
- difficultly eating or swallowing
- loss of mobility in your jaw
- bumps on your jaw that are hard and painless
- fever that’s more than 103°F (39°C)
- pain that persists or gets worse over the course of several days
If you have a lump on your jaw that won’t go away, a doctor may run several tests to determine the underlying cause. Once allergies and swollen lymph nodes have been ruled out, diagnostic tests might be the next step.
A doctor may recommend a biopsy on the lump. During a biopsy, your doctor takes a small sample of tissue from the lump on your jaw and tests for the presence of cancerous cells.
If the lump on your jaw is being caused by any kind of infection, your doctor may recommend treatment with antibiotics.
In cases where the lump on your jaw is a benign growth, the course of action may be primarily up to you. If the growth bothers you because of the way that it looks, or if it interferes with your daily activities, you may make a plan with your doctor to get it removed.
In some cases, a lump on your jaw can be left alone without any risk to your health.
Is surgery necessary for a movable lump on my jaw?
In some cases, surgery may be necessary to remove a lump on your jawbone.
If you have a lipoma or a cyst, you may want to have the lump removed for cosmetic reasons. This will be entirely up to you and what you are comfortable with.
In other situations, your doctor may opt to remove a lump on your jawbone because they are concerned that it could become cancerous or interfere with jaw mobility.
If you have an infection in an abscessed tooth, dental surgery may be required to relieve your symptoms.
A cyst that is giving you pain or making you uncomfortable can usually be removed laparoscopically.
The most common causes of a movable lump under the skin of your jawbone will typically resolve on their own.
If you develop other symptoms, or if the lump is causing you pain or discomfort, you should consider asking a medical professional to take a look.