A broken jaw is considered a dental emergency and requires immediate medical attention. The mandible is the largest bone in the lower part of your face and has two main parts. The rami are the two branches that attach your jaw to the skull and the “body,” which is the lower part where you have the chin and the jaw angle. According to statistics, a broken jaw is the second most common facial injury after the nose.
A broken jaw is usually a result of trauma on your lower face or jawbone. An accident, assault, a sports injury can cause trauma. More common causes of a broken jaw and the treatment are explained in this article. If you suffer a broken jaw, you need to seek emergency dental care.
If you or your loved one requires treatment for a broken jaw in California, do not hesitate to contact Ganji Dental. We have specialized emergency dentists who will treat your broken jaw with the utmost professionalism. We also walk with you during the recovery process to ensure you have your smile back.
Major Causes of a Broken Jaw?
When you experience considerable direct force or trauma to your lower face, your jaw is likely to break. The most common causes of direct force or trauma to your face, which cause a jaw break include:
Car accidents are some of the most common causes of broken jaws. During a car accident, you can bump your face on the steering wheel or dashboard. The force might result in a broken jaw if you aren’t wearing your seatbelt.
Another common cause for a broken jaw is assault. Your jaw might break if you receive a hard jab or slap to your face. You can also break your jaw if you practise boxing, either professionally or as an amateur. Your opponent can punch you in the face and break your mandible.
Some contact sports like American football or wrestling can lead to a broken jaw. Your opponent might tackle you and break your jawbone when your face hits the ground. A ball can also hit your face and break your jawbone. You can fall during the sport and break your jaw.
Slip and Fall Accidents & Home and Work-place Related Accidents
Slip and fall accidents are common at workplaces, homes, and shopping malls. If you slip and fall while walking and hit your face on a hard surface, you could break your jaw bone.
Home and workplace-related accidents are another cause of broken jaws. You might fall off a ladder at work while retrieving merchandise. You could fall off the stool at home while changing your bulb. These and other home and workplace-related accidents can lead to a broken jaw.
If you are a man, you are three times more likely to suffer a broken jaw. Additionally, if you are between 20 to 29 years, you are more susceptible to sustain a fractured jaw. People between these ages are more likely to engage in reckless behavior. Reckless behavior leads to more injuries, including breaking their jaws.
Signs of A Broken Jaw
Some symptoms manifest when you break your jaw. These include but are not limited to:
- You experience searing pain in your jaw.
- If the broken jawbone moves backward, it might tear into your ear canal, which will cause excessive pain in your ear. You might have bruises under your tongue.
- You might experience malocclusion. Malocclusion is a condition where the teeth do not fit well together once you close your mouth.
- It becomes difficult to speak or to open your mouth correctly.
- Your jaw swells and has visible bruising.
- You might bleed inside the mouth due to tissue damage caused by the broken mandible.
- You might lose some teeth.
Why You Should Seek Emergency Medical Treatment After Your Jaw Breaks
You should not leave a broken jaw to heal on its own. Apart from the searing pain you experience because of the fractured jaw, leaving it untreated might cause more medical complications. If you leave the broken jaw untreated, it might become infected, which will lead to a lot of pain.
Even if the fracture is not as severe, it is paramount that an emergency dentist has a look at the injury. If you don’t seek medical treatment, the broken jaw might heal in the wrong position. When your jaw is in the wrong position, the alignment of your teeth is off. Your dental bite also becomes affected. You might realize that your upper or lower jaw protrudes due to the wrong alignment. Your teeth also do not fit well together.
When your jaw is misaligned, you will have a problem with chewing. You might also have difficulty pronouncing some words. A broken jaw can also cause some complications while breathing. It is therefore imperative to seek medical treatment when you have a broken jaw.
Seeking Medical Care for A Broken Jaw
A broken jaw is a medical emergency. If you suffer a broken jaw, you need to seek emergency medical treatment. Once you arrive at the hospital, the dentist or orthopedic surgeon will conduct a medical examination. The examination is to help the oral surgeon determine the extent of the damage. Once they determine the extent of the damage, they will recommend the most appropriate treatment regimen.
The Medical Examination Procedure Is as Follows:
The first step is the physical examination. Here, the emergency dentist checks for any obvious physical signs of a broken jaw. The signs include bruising, swelling, or deformity. The dentist will proceed to examine your temporomandibular joint (TMJ) to see if you have injured any of your nerves. The TMJ connects your jaw bone to the skull and allows your lower jaw to move up and down. The dentist will proceed to feel your jawbone through your skin.
Examining the Inside of Your Mouth
Once the oral surgeon has completed the physical examination, they will check your jaw bone movement. The oral surgeon will examine the inside of your mouth. They will request you to bite down. As you do so, they will observe the alignment of your teeth.
Ascertaining Your Jaw Bone Stability
The third step is to check the stability of your jaw bone. To test the stability, the emergency dentist will place a tongue depressor between your teeth. They will see if you can hold it into place.
Determining the Extent of the Damage
The last step to ascertain the severity of the broken jaw is by an X-ray. If the X-ray does not show any results, the emergency dentist might order a CT scan. The CT scan provides a more detailed image.
You should not be scared of the examination process. The emergency dentist evaluates your pain level before they proceed with the examination. If you are in a lot of pain, the dentist will give you pain relievers to ease the pain.
Treatment of A Broken Jaw
Once the oral surgeon has completed the examination, they will recommend the ideal treatment. The treatment depends on the severity of the fracture. You can have a stable fracture or an unstable fracture. A stable fracture is where the injury is not severe. An unstable fracture, on the other hand, is a severe injury.
If this is the case, you will need surgery to treat your broken jaw. A maxillofacial or oral surgeon performs the surgery to repair your broken jaw. They also perform the procedure to wire your upper and lower teeth together in case of stable fracture treatment.
Jaw Wiring to Fix A Stable Fracture
Jaw wiring is known as maxillomandibular fixation. In this procedure, the dental surgeon connects the upper and lower jawbones to treat your broken jaw. The oral surgeon can either use wires, elastic bands, or metal devices to keep your jaws together. The purpose of jaw wiring is to help your broken jaw heal properly by minimizing its movement.
The Benefits of Jaw Wiring
As a result of the mandible fracture, you might experience:
- Painful jaw problems due to misalignment of the jaws.
- Improper functioning of your jaws and teeth.
- You are unable to close your mouth and lips properly.
- Distortion of your facial symmetry.
- Cause speech impairment.
- Cause drooling.
Wiring of the teeth helps rectify all these effects of a fractured mandible as it helps your jaw heal well and fast.
The Procedure of Jaw Wiring
The primary purpose of jaw wiring is to prevent your jaw from moving. The wiring promotes faster healing. The oral surgeon will place bars at your upper and lower gums that hold the wires or elastic bands into place. Jaw wiring is an in-patient procedure. The healing process for the operation usually takes around six weeks.
Some of The Risk Factors for Jaw Wiring
Below are some risk factors associated with jaw wiring.
Choking on Food/ Vomit
It is possible to choke when your jaw is wired. For example, if you vomit, the vomit might choke you since you cannot spit it out. To avoid choking on your vomit, you should always carry wire cutters. Use the wire cutters to clip the wires once you start to vomit or if you feel nauseated and you are sure you will vomit.
Bleeding is also another risk factor associated with the wiring. The wounds caused by the incisions can start to bleed. Use a cotton pad to control the bleeding.
You may experience numbness or tingling in your mouth due to the wiring. It may continue for a short time or a while.
Another risk factor is that the wounds might become infected. You can treat the infections through drainage and by taking antibiotics.
Recovery Time After Wiring Procedure
The recovery period after the wiring procedure depends on the severity of the injury. It also depends on your overall health. The wiring is bound to cause some jaw discomfort as the healing process takes place. Since you will be under anesthesia, you will not feel any pain during the wiring procedure.
The procedure might cause swelling, and you might also experience some pain after the anesthesia wears off. Buying your oral surgeon will prescribe drugs to help with the swelling and the pain.
The removal of the wiring is generally an outpatient procedure.
The second procedure your oral surgeon can recommend to treat your broken jaw is surgery. Jaw surgery is medically known as orthognathic surgery.
Risks of A Jaw Surgery
Jaw surgery is safe when conducted by an experienced oral surgeon. The procedure has some risks, which include:
- You might experience blood loss.
- The wounds might become infected.
- You may suffer from nerve injury during the process.
- Your jaw might not shift back to its initial position.
- A second surgery to correct any mishap in the first surgery
- Some of your teeth might require a root canal.
- You might lose a portion of your jaw.
How to Adequately Prepare for The Surgery
After examining your broken jaw’s severity, the oral surgeon will come up with a surgery plan. The orthodontist will use the X-ray and CT scans to come up with the best rectifying procedure. The CT scans are three-dimensional, giving the maxillofacial surgeon and orthodontist a clear picture of the broken jaw’s nature. The oral surgeon can also use a computer-generated surgery plan and guide.
Thanks to technology, it’s possible for the oral surgeon to use virtual surgical planning (VSP) to perform the surgery. VSP is a computer program that guides the oral surgeon during the procedure. The program helps the surgeon perform the surgery most optimally.
What You Should Expect in The Process of Oral Surgery to treat Your Broken Jaw
What You Should Expect Before the Surgery
Jaw surgery is performed to rectify your broken jaw. Maxillofacial and oral surgeons usually carry out the surgery. The oral surgeon does the operation while you are under general anesthesia. You will also need to stay at the hospital for two to four days.
What to Expect During the Surgery?
Surgery to treat your broken jaw happens inside your mouth. As such, you don’t sustain physical scars on your chin or jaw due to the surgery. In some cases, though, the oral surgeon must make small incisions outside the mouth.
During the jaw surgery, the oral dentist moves the jawbones to the right position. After the oral surgeon moves the jaws into the proper position, they use screws or small bone plates to hold the jaw into place. The oral surgeon might also use rubber bands or wires to hold the jawbones into position. The use of wires or elastic bands is called wiring, as earlier discussed. Over time, the screws become part of your bone structure.
Depending on the severity of the injury on your broken jaw, the oral surgeon might add some bone to your jaw during the procedure. They can remove the bone from your leg, hip, or rib. They secure the bone to your jaw using dental screws and plates.
You can either break your upper jaw, lower jaw, including chin, or break both your upper and lower jaw.
Upper Jaw Surgery (Maxillary Osteotomy)
When you break your upper jaw, you might develop some dental complications, which include but not limited to:
- Your upper jaw might protrude or recede significantly.
- You might develop a crossbite.
- The injury might cause too many teeth or too few teeth to show.
- The broken jaw injury might cause an open bite.
When your upper jaw breaks, it can recede, which causes the above complications. To rectify the abnormalities caused by breaking your upper jaw, the oral surgeon moves the jaw forward until it fits properly with the lower teeth. Once the oral surgeon realigns your upper jaw, they will use the dental screws and plates to hold it into position.
Lower Jaw Surgery
Lower jaw surgery is known medically as a mandibular osteotomy. You might need lower jaw surgery when the broken jaw recedes or protrudes due to the injury. If your lower jaw protrudes or recedes due to the fracture, the oral surgeon repositions it and uses dental screws and plates to hold it together until it heals.
What you Should Do After the Procedure
After the surgery to fix your broken jaw, the oral surgeon will give you instructions to help in the recovery process. Some of the instruction include:
- The food you should eat
- The expected time frame before you can go back to your routine, school, or job
- Oral hygiene
- The medication to use to control the pain and swelling
- Avoiding strenuous activities
It will take about six weeks for your jaw to heal after the surgery. However, complete healing can take up to 12 weeks. After the initial healing, which occurs after six months, your oral surgeon will align your teeth with braces.
The Outcome of The Broken Jaw Surgery
A broken jaw can distort your lower face appearance. The function of your teeth is restored, which might have been affected by the broken jaw. You no longer experience speech impairment which a broken jaw can cause.
Managing Your Broken Jaw After Treatment
Use ice and medications as directed by the oral surgeon
It is possible to experience some swelling or pain after the surgery. Your oral surgeon will give you medication to help with the pain. Placing ice on the broken jaw helps reduce swelling. You can either use an ice pack or crush ice and put it in a plastic bag. Then place the bag on your broken jaw where you have had the treatment. Avoid placing the ice directly on your face. You should cover it with a towel. Place the ice on the jaw after every 15 to 20 minutes.
Eat Soft Or Blended Foods
After the surgery, the oral surgeon might wire your jaws together. In that case, you will not be able to eat solid foods. You will have to eat soft and blended food through a straw or syringe. In some cases, the oral surgeon will not wire your jaws together after the surgery. However, you will still need to eat soft food to give your broken jaw a chance to heal. Some of the foods you can eat include yogurt, bananas, gelatin, pudding, and other similar soft food. You should avoid eating hard food as it may agitate the wound and prevent it from healing properly.
Maintain High Oral Hygiene
Oral hygiene is crucial whether you have had an operation on your broken jaw or not. However, oral hygiene becomes critical when you are recovering from a broken jaw. You should clean your mouth four to six times a day, more so after mealtimes. Your oral surgeon will show you how to clean your teeth properly. The cleaning will remove any food particles that remain in your mouth after meals. The food particles harbor bacteria which can cause an infection in the wounds.
Use a small soft toothbrush to clean your teeth. The soft toothbrush will not agitate your woods as much as a regular adult-sized toothbrush. You should also use a water flosser to clean your teeth. The water flosser ensures that all the particles are removed from your teeth.
Do Not Engage In Sports Yet
You might be a very active person, and you are itching to go back to the field. But you should not play any sports when you are nursing a broken jaw. If you engage in sports, your jaw might bruise, bleed or break again. If you want to go back to the field, ask your oral surgeon when it is safe to play sports again.
Avoid Putting Pressure on Your Jaw
Avoid putting pressure on your jaw, especially when sleeping. It is recommended that you sleep on your back.
Call an Emergency Dentist Near Me
Typically, brutal force to the face is the primary cause of your broken jaw. The force might be as a result of an accident, contact sport, or a fall. Suffering a broken jaw is an emergency, and you should seek immediate medical treatment. If you or your loved one suffers a broken jaw, you need to seek a dentist’s help as fast as possible.
At Ganji Dental, we have experienced emergency dentists who offer quality and professional broken jaw treatment. We offer top-of-the-range emergency dental treatment to ensure you have your smile back. If you are in Hawthorne, California, and need treatment for a broken jaw, do not hesitate to contact us at 310-643-8045.