Inflammation from TMJ disorders affecting the joints and muscles in your lower jaw may cause your face to swell. But, this is a rare symptom.

The hinge-like temporomandibular joints (TMJs), located in front of your ears, connect your lower jaw to your skull so you can speak and eat.

An injury to these joints, health conditions such as arthritis, and grinding your teeth (bruxism) are among the factors that may cause TMJ misalignment and issues with the surrounding jaw muscles and facial nerves.

This may lead to TMJ disorders, which are now more commonly abbreviated as TMD.

TMD is treatable, and it often goes away without treatment. The underlying cause, such as arthritis or bruxism, may also need to be treated.

Although the most common symptoms of TMD include jaw pain and stiffness, facial swelling may occur in rare instances.

The following underlying conditions associated with TMD may cause facial swelling:

  • Arthritis in your jaw: The swelling may be caused by the extra fluid that fills TMJ tissues due to inflammation from arthritis in the jaw.
  • Retrodiscitis: This condition usually causes facial swelling. It’s caused by trauma or progressive (increasing) displacement of the retrodiscal tissue that cushions the area between your lower jaw and skull).
  • Ganglion cyst: In very rare cases, a fluid-filled lump of tissue called a ganglion cyst may develop on your TMJ.
  • Septic arthritis: A bacterial or fungal infection in your TMJ may cause swelling in your face. But, septic arthritis is uncommon and rarely affects TMJs.

The lymph nodes in your neck, underarms, thighs, and torso are small glands that can become swollen due to an infection or illness.

If a TMD erodes the cartilage in your jaw or causes misalignment, this may lead to swollen lymph nodes.

A 2017 study of 201 people with TMD found that those with joint swelling due to TMD had significantly more lymph nodes and swelling in their parotid gland (a major salivary gland) than the people with no joint swelling.

Depending on the underlying cause, facial swelling and other symptoms of TMD may last from hours to several days or longer.

With treatment, facial swelling may go away sooner or may not occur at all.

Other symptoms associated with TMD include:

  • constant or occasional dull pain in your face or neck, especially when chewing or yawning
  • clicking or popping sound around your TMJ
  • limited jaw movement
  • inability to close your mouth
  • wearing down of your teeth
  • tinnitus (ringing in your ears)

These symptoms may occur on one or both sides of your face.

Asymmetrical facial swelling is considered a “red flag” symptom of TMD. It’s suggested you see a doctor right away to determine the cause.

You should also see a doctor if your facial swelling lasts for more than a few days, or if you’re experiencing other TMD symptoms.

A doctor can rule out other conditions, such as a sinus infection or abscessed tooth, that could be the cause.

Also see a doctor if your swollen lymph nodes persist for more than a week, or if you also have symptoms like fever, chills, or unintentional weight loss.

Medical emergency

Call emergency medical services or go to the nearest emergency room if your lymph nodes are swollen and you have difficulty swallowing or breathing. These are indications of a more serious underlying cause.

The treatment for facial swelling depends on the underlying cause of your TMD, such as arthritis or retrodiscitis.

According to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, TMD symptoms go away without treatment for many people. Surgery or treatments that permanently change your jaw joints or teeth are generally only recommended as a last resort.

To reduce facial swelling, you can try these home remedies:

Although facial swelling isn’t a common symptom of TMD, it may occur due to some conditions associated with this disorder, such as arthritis and retrodiscitis.

You may be able to reduce facial swelling with home remedies. If the swelling lasts for more than a few days, see a doctor to determine the underlying cause.