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Mark Bornfeld
Mark Bornfeld, Dentist (DDS)
Category: Health
Satisfied Customers: 6021
Experience:  Clinical instructor, NYU College of Dentistry; 37 years private practice experience in general dentistry, member Academy of General Dentistry, ADA, American Academy of Oral Medicine
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I have a small lump on my left jaw bone. Help!

Customer Question

I have a small hard lump on my left jaw bone. If you follow the bottom of the jaw bone upwards toward the ear, it is located right before the notch where your bottom jaw bone begins traveling up along the side of the head. It feels like it may be slightly movable but it is hard to tell.

Submitted: 5 years ago.
Category: Health
Expert:  Dr. Anil replied 5 years ago.


Is it red,swollen,tender to touch?

Any recent infection?

Since how long have you been suffering from?

Any other medical history?

Are you taking any medication?

Customer: replied 5 years ago.

It's a little hard to tell because I have a beard, but it doesn't appear to be swollen or red in the area. I just noticed the lump tonight. It doesn't hurt in any way. I am not on any medication. I have not had any medical issues concerning my jaw or mouth in the past.

Expert:  Dr. Anil replied 5 years ago.

Thanks for providing more information.

It is more likely to be an enlarged lymph node from some infection of inflammation in the area drained by the node.

It can also be an infection in the mastoid bone.

But if it becomes painful, you will need a course of antibiotic.
For now, you can gently massage the area, apply ice pack.

Take OTC Motrin.

It'll subside by it's own in few days.
But if it persists for more than a week, then do get this checked by your doctor next week.

Expert:  Mark Bornfeld replied 5 years ago.

Welcome to JustAnswer
Is the bump on both sides, or just on one side?

Customer: replied 5 years ago.
It is just on one side. It feels like its an actual part of the bone. It is on the left side.
Expert:  Mark Bornfeld replied 5 years ago.

It would be helpful to know whether the lump to which you refer only recently emerged, or whether it has been there for a long time and you only just discovered it. In some cases, that distinction cannot be made, and more formal diagnostic efforts would be necessary to more reliably identify the lump to which you refer.

Your description suggests several possible diagnoses. The most likely thing is one that you have already intuitively guessed-- that the lump is part of the jaw bone itself. This is not unusual, even if there is a lack of symmetry (i.e., the lump is present only on one side). There is normally a groove situated toward the back of the inferior border of the lower jaw. This groove accommodates the facial artery as it courses upward across the face from its root in the neck at the external carotid artery. The part of the lower jaw behind this groove can feel prominent, and can even become enlarged due the influence of the masseter muscle, one of the strong muscles at the side of the jaw. See this diagram from Gray's Anatomy (here the groove for the facial artery is designated by its less common name, the external maxillary artery):

There are less common conditions that could conceivably present in the manner you describe, and I include them for the sake of completeness, although they are far less likely.

The angle of the mandible (see diagram) is covered by one of the major salivary glands, the parotid gland, as well as numerous lymph nodes in the inferior auricular and parotid chains. These can become inflamed, but in these cases they are usually soft and movable, and it is for this reason that inflammation of the lymph nodes or parotid gland are unlikely suspects. Lymph nodes can become hard and fixed in cases of metastatic malignancy (primary malignancy of nodes can feel harder than normal nodes, but are not nearly as hard as bone), and you are hardly in a demographic where head or jaw malignancy are likely. Primary malignancy of bone (osteosarcoma) can cause enlargement of bone contours, and is more common in young people, but is relatively uncommon in the jaws.

There is the potential for odontogenic cysts (cysts originating in embryonic tooth tissue) to cause jaw lumps, and of the abnormalities that cause hard lumps in the jaws, is the most common. It is for this reason that the most rational way of determining whether your lump is a normal anatomic variant or whether it is due to an abnormality would be to consult with a dentist, preferably an oral surgeon. The expertise of this type of clinician is best suited for identification of lumps and other findings of the jaws. Your general dentist can provide you with a referral, or you may consult the online directory of the American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons for contact information for an oral surgeon near you.

Hope this helps...

Customer: replied 5 years ago.

Thanks for the great information. One thing I forgot to note was that several years ago (maybe ten years ago) my dentist told me that I have a misaligned jaw. He went over a few treatments with before we settled on simply making me a guard to go over my front teeth to keep me from grinding my teeth at night. Could this contribute to my situation at all, or is it unrelated? Also, I'm not sure how long the lump has been there. It's so small that naturally running my hand along my jaw, I cannot feel it. I was just at both the doctors and dentist in July. The doctor had checked my lymph bodes in my neck and didn't notice anything. Also, the dentist didn't say anything about my jaw, though he did say I may need my wisdom teeth out. The only reason I noticed the little notch on my jaw was because I had become a little paranoid about lymph nodes because of something I read. Anyway, not sure if that info matters. I think that's all I have left to say. Thank you.

Expert:  Mark Bornfeld replied 5 years ago.

Although a misalignment of your jaw may be related to the lump you discovered, drawing such an inference would be speculative. There is no way to logically rule out the possibility that they are unrelated, so a reliable determination would require a formal assessment.

The history of any abnormality is an important diagnostic criterion. Therefore, knowing the duration of an abnormality, and the changes to that abnormality over time, are vital in assessing clinical behavior. For example, if the lump was there for years and did not change during that time, it would imply something much different from something that was not present last week. Of course, one could not use this as a diagnostic criterion if there was no knowledge of the lump until recently, and a doctor would need to use other means of determining whether the lump could simply be kept under surveillance prospectively, or whether more aggressive diagnostic efforts are warranted. I would like to think that your doctors' failure to take note of the lump suggests its innocence, but there is always the possibility that they simply failed to detect it. Therefore, if you are concerned about the lump, you should seek further consultation, as I have suggested above.

Good luck!