Swelling (mouth and face)
Swelling (mouth and face)

When you contact your dental practice or Health Board for a dental appointment, you MUST tell them if you have tested positive for coronavirus (COVID19) OR you are currently self-isolating OR you have possible symptoms.

Dental practices have to comply with social distancing measures so please do not attend without having made an appointment first.

Swelling of the face or in the mouth may be a sign of infection, particularly if there is warmth and redness in the area.

Swellings of the mouth, face and neck that need a visit to Accident & Emergency (A & E)

Any swelling on your face, neck or inside your mouth that:

  • makes it hard to open your mouth OR
  • causes difficulty in swallowing or breathing OR
  • is close to an eye

requires Emergency management. In these cases you should attend your local Accident and Emergency (A & E) unit.

Swellings of the mouth, face and neck that can be managed by your dental practice

A swelling inside your mouth may indicate a dental abscess, which is caused by infection from a tooth or gum. A dental abscess in your mouth may cause one or more of the following symptoms:

  • an intense throbbing pain in the affected tooth or gum that may come on suddenly and gets gradually worse
  • pain that spreads to your ear, jaw and neck on the same side as the affected tooth or gum
  • pain that's worse when lying down, which may disturb your sleep
  • redness and swelling in your face
  • a tender, discoloured or loose tooth
  • shiny, red and swollen gums
  • sensitivity to hot or cold food and drink
  • bad breath or an unpleasant taste in your mouth

If the infection from a dental abscess spreads, you might see or feel it swelling on your face and/or neck. You may also develop a high temperature (fever) and feel generally unwell.

For a facial swelling which is causing concern (but not affecting your mouth opening, ability to breathe, ability to swallow or closing an eye), call your dental practice. If it's outside of normal opening hours, there should be a message with details of how to access out-of-hours dental treatment.

If you do not have a regular dentist, call the appropriate dental helpline number for your Health Board area.

While you are waiting

While you're waiting for advice or to see a dentist, painkillers such as Paracetamol or Ibuprofen can help control your pain. BE CAREFUL to follow dosage instructions on the packet.

Aspirin should not be given to children under 16 years old.

It may also help to:

  • avoid hot or cold food and drink if it makes the pain worse
  • try eating cool, soft foods if possible, using the opposite side of your mouth
  • use a soft toothbrush and temporarily avoid flossing around the affected tooth

These measures can help alleviate your symptoms temporarily, but you should not use them to delay seeking dental advice.

Treatments for a dental abscess

Dental abscesses are normally treated by removing the source of the infection and draining away the pus.

Antibiotics are not routinely prescribed for dental abscesses, but may be used if there is sign of spreading infection.

Depending on the location of the abscess and how severe the infection is, possible treatments include:

  • removing the affected tooth (extraction)
  • incision and drainage - where a small cut (incision) is made in the gum to drain the abscess. This is usually only a temporary solution and further treatment may be needed
  • root canal treatment – treatments such as this are still limited due to the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic. It may be possible to start this treatment now and complete it once dental services are back to normal

Local anaesthetic will usually be used to numb your mouth for these procedures.

The information on this page has been adapted by NHS Wales from original content supplied by NHS UK NHS website nhs.uk
Last Updated: 15/07/2021 15:52:44