Does Cancer in the Jaw Hurt?

Medically Reviewed on 6/17/2022
Cancer in the jaw is painful. It can also cause swelling, thus changing the appearance of the face.
Most jaw cancers do not start in the jaw rather they start in the mouth, throat, or salivary glands.

Cancer in the jaw is painful. It can also cause swelling, thus changing the appearance of the face. Sometimes, it may cause the teeth to fall off as well, causing pain and bleeding.

Most jaw cancers do not start in the jaw rather they start in the mouth, throat, or salivary glands. Technically, these are mouth and throat cancer but not jaw cancer. There are rare bone cancers that affect the jaw, accounting for only 1 percent of all head and neck cancers.

What are different tumors affecting the jaw?

There are benign and malignant tumors that affect the jaw. The most common tumor affecting the jaw is squamous cell carcinoma.

Some of the malignant tumors affecting jaws include:

  • Osteosarcoma: It produces immature bone from tumor bone cells accompanied by pain and swelling.
  • Giant cell tumor: These tumors enlarge and destroy bone and may eventually erode the rest of the bones and extend into the soft tissue.
  • Ewing tumor: A rare type of cancerous tumor that grows in the bones or soft tissue around the jawbone.
  • Multiple myeloma: It is a form of bone marrow cancer (develops in the spongy part at the center of the bone).
  • Metastatic tumors: Tumors that spread to the nearby tissues.

Some of the benign tumors include:

  • Ameloblastoma: It is comparatively common, slow-growing, and usually a benign tumor. Ameloblastoma develops most often in the jaw near the molars. They can also spread to nearby structures, such as bone and soft tissue. 
  • Central giant cell granuloma: Central giant cell granulomas are benign lesions that mostly occur in the front portion of the lower jaw. Some of these tumors can grow rapidly, cause pain and destroy the bone. These lesions tend to recur after surgical treatment.
  • Dentigerous cyst: It is the most common form of cyst of the jaws that starts from tissue surrounding a tooth before it erupts into the mouth. Mostly, these cysts will occur around wisdom teeth that are not fully erupted, but they can attack other teeth.
  • Odontogenic keratocyst: This cyst has a tumor-like tendency to recur after surgical treatment; hence, they are referred to as keratocystic odontogenic tumors. It is a slow-growing, benign cyst that can be damaging to local structures. These cysts mainly grow in the lower jaw near the third molars.
  • Odontogenic myxoma: It is a rare, slow-growing, benign tumor that mostly occurs in the lower jaw. The tumor can be huge. They aggressively attack the jaw and surrounding tissue and displace teeth. Odontogenic myxomas are known to recur after surgical treatment. However, the chances of tumor recurrence are reduced by aggressive surgical treatment.
  • Odontoma: This benign tumor is the most common odontogenic tumor. Odontomas often do not exhibit any symptoms but may delay tooth development or eruption. Odontomas comprise dental tissue that develops around a tooth in the jaw. They may resemble an oddly shaped tooth or can be a small or large calcified tumor.
  • Other types of cysts and tumors: These include
    • Adenomatoid odontogenic tumors
    • Calcifying epithelial
    • Odontogenic tumors
    • Ameloblastic fibromas
    • Glandular odontogenic cyst
    • Squamous odontogenic tumors
    • Calcifying odontogenic cysts
    • Cementoblastomas
    • Aneurysmal bone cysts
    • Ossifying fibromas
    • Osteoblastoma
    • Central odontogenic fibromas


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Medically Reviewed on 6/17/2022
Mayo Clinic. Jaw Tumors and Cysts.

Schiff BA. Jaw Tumors. MSD Manual.,-nose,-and-throat-disorders/tumors-of-the-head-and-neck/jaw-tumors