We don’t much think about fractured jaws, but they are the second most common fracture on the human head (behind only the nose) and the 10th most common fracture on the entire body.
And because the jaws are important in breathing, eating, and talking, when they break it can be terrible news.
Worse, in many cases there are actually two fractures as the blunt force that causes the ‘main’ fracture transfers up the jawline causing another breakage near the ear, where the jawbone is weakest.
At EK Dental Surgery we want our patients to be aware of the risks of fractured jaws, how they happen, how they are treated, and even how to avoid them.
Causes of fractured jaws
Although jawbone fractures can occur from pathological causes (for example, cancer, bone loss through infections), the large majority of fractures occur from simple trauma to the face:
- Motor vehicle accidents
- Assaults (facial trauma)
- Sports-related injuries (boxing, football)
- Falls (face-first falls)
Perhaps not surprisingly, the majority of jawbone fractures happen to young adult males between 20-30 years of age.
Symptoms of fractured jaws
Symptoms of a fractured (broken) jaw include:
- Bleeding from the mouth
- Difficulty opening the mouth widely
- Facial bruising
- Swelling of the face
- Jaw stiffness
- Jaw tenderness or pain, worse with biting or chewing
- Lumpy or abnormal appearance of the cheek or jaw
- Wiggly or damaged teeth
- Facial numbness (particularly the lower lip)
- Minimal jaw movement (with severe fracture)
Treatment for jaw fractures:
If the fracture is minor, no treatment may be necessary beyond pain medication to lessen discomfort and a soft diet to minimise pain while chewing).
If the fracture is moderate to severe, surgery is often necessary to align and immobilise the jawbone to allow proper healing.
Jaw wiring is the usual choice for moderate to severe fractures. Wire is used to hold the jaw in place and to keep it from shifting and help the bones heal properly.
Some fractures will require placement of screws and plates in the bone and may require jaw-wiring as well.In general, once an uncomplicated jaw fracture is treated, healing usually takes one to two months.
Aftercare for a broken jaw
Manage pain. Use OTC painkillers as recommended on the label, or prescription drugs from your surgeon or doctor. Ice packs can also help numb pain, but never put ice directly on skin or other tissue as it can cause frostbite.
Treat swelling. Your face will likely swell the first three days after jaw surgery. Reduce swelling by keeping your head elevated and sleeping in a partially upright position. If the swelling hasn’t reduced by the fifth day, it could be a sign of infection, so call your surgeon and report the swelling.
Dietary considerations. A liquid diet is likely — during the healing process, all jaw movement must be minimised. Following a liquid diet is an effective way to ensure this while eating. Your doctor will assess your progress around week six of your recovery, and if your jaw fracture is healing correctly, you may be able to add solid foods back into your diet.
Keep your mouth clean. Oral hygiene will be more difficult, but it’s critical to a quick recovery. Gently brush your teeth after eating. Besides, rinse your mouth with warm salt water after snacking.
Keep blunt scissors or wire cutters handy if your jaw is wired. Jaw wiring can be dangerous in some cases (e.g. if you vomit), so it is always safest to have a quick way to release them.
A few helpful tips to prevent broken jaws
- Fall-proof your home, especially when there are young children and elderly adults.
- Drive carefully and wear seatbelts while driving.
- Avoid fights.
- Use appropriate headgear, wear helmets and seat belts to avoid severe injuries during participation in certain sports activities. And here, EK Dental Surgery can help. If you are into any contact sports or athletics, it is imperative that you wear a customised mouthguard! This is one of the most important and most effective protective pieces to prevent injury to the mouth. Aside from protecting your mouth, a mouthguard also cushion blows to the mouth or jaw, thereby preventing damage to the jaw or neck.Read more about mouthguards at EK Dental Surgery
Finally, as you recover from a broken jaw, EK Dental Surgery will be with you every step of the way, ensuring that you have the best possible smile and dental health possible!
Reasons To Smile At EK Dental Surgery!
EK Dental Surgery offers a wide variety of preventative and cosmetic dental procedures for children, seniors, and everyone in between! We are a team of dedicated Glen Waverley dentists and staff working to provide the best care possible. At EK Dental we can help you achieve tip-top dental health and a movie-star smile!
EK Dental Surgery is conveniently located on Springvale Road in Glen Waverley.
Same day dental emergency appointment available!
Call (03) 9887 8787 or visit us at 230 Springvale Road in Glen Waverley.