Broken jaws are dental emergencies that need prompt medical attention. A broken jaw is often caused by trauma to the jawbone or lower face. Accidents, physical assaults, or sports injuries can all result in jaw trauma. If you break your jaw, you should see your dentist as soon as possible for treatment.
If you or a loved one needs treatment for a broken jaw in Lomita, California, you can contact Washington Dental. We have emergency dentists on staff who will attend to your broken jaw, be there for you every step of the way, and help you get your smile back.
Common Causes of Broken Jaws
If you suffer excessive trauma or physical force to the lower face, you run the risk of breaking your jaw. The following are the most typical causes of trauma or direct force to your face that could result in a broken jaw:
Among the most frequently occurring causes of broken jaws include car crashes. If your car gets into an accident, you could hit your jaw on the dashboard or steering wheel. And if your seatbelt isn't fastened, the impact could break your jaw.
Sports involving contact, such as wrestling or American football, increase the risk of broken jaws. You could also shatter your jaw if a ball hits your face. It's also possible to suffer a broken jaw from falling while playing.
Another typical cause of broken jaws is physical assault. If you suffer a serious blow to the face, your jaw could break. Practicing boxing, whether professionally or recreationally, may result in jaw fractures. If your opponent punches you hard enough, they may fracture your mandible.
Slip and Fall Accidents
Accidents involving slipping and falling happen often at home, workplaces, and malls. If you trip and fall and your face hits a hard surface, you run the risk of breaking the jawbone.
Accidents at home and work can also result in broken jaws. At work, you could fall from a ladder while getting stuff. You can fall from the table while replacing a light bulb at home. Injuries to the jaw can result from these as well as other commonplace and work-related accidents.
The likelihood of suffering a broken jaw is three times higher in men. You are also more likely to suffer a cracked jaw if you're between the ages of 20 and 29. It's common for people in this age range to act recklessly. Reckless behavior causes additional injuries including jaw fractures.
Symptoms of a Broken Jaw
When your jaw breaks, you may experience certain symptoms. Some examples of these are:
- Excruciating pain coming from the jaw.
- When a shattered part of your jawbone moves in the opposite direction, it could rip into the ear canal, which would result in excruciating pain.
- The area under the tongue could become bruised.
- You could develop malocclusion. This is a problem where your teeth don't fit properly together while your mouth is closed.
- It becomes challenging to properly open your mouth or talk.
- Your jaw is swollen and bruised.
- You may experience some internal bleeding.
- You could suffer tooth loss.
Why Seeking Medical Care Immediately After Your Jaw Breaks Is Important
A fractured jaw shouldn't be left to heal by itself. Leaving a broken jaw untreated won't only aggravate the pain you're already in, but it could also lead to other health issues. If you don't take care of the fractured jaw, it could get infected and cause a lot of discomfort.
It is critical to have a dental professional immediately examine the injury, regardless of how little the fracture is. If you fail to have the broken jaw checked out by your dentist, it could end up healing in an improper position.
If your jaw is not in the right place, it will affect the way your teeth fit together. It also affects your bite. You might notice that the lower or upper jaw protrudes as a result of poor alignment.
You will experience chewing difficulties if your jaw is out of alignment. Additionally, some terms could be challenging for you to pronounce. If your jaw is fractured, it could also make breathing difficult. Therefore, if you break your jaw, you shouldn’t hesitate to consult your emergency dentist.
Seeking Treatment for a Broken Jaw
Broken jaws are considered medical emergencies. If you break your jaw, you have to get to the dentist's clinic as soon as possible for treatment. The orthopedic surgeon or dentist will examine you once you get there. The examination will assist the dental professional in assessing the severity of the injury. They will then suggest the best course of treatment.
The Medical Examination Process
This procedure includes the following:
The initial phase entails a thorough physical examination. Your emergency dentist will look for visible evidence of a fractured jaw. The symptoms include deformity, swelling, or bruising. Your dentist will then check your temporomandibular joint or TMJ to determine if any nerves have been affected.
The TMJ is a joint between the lower jaw and the skull that allows for movement of the jaw. The next step of the process will involve the dentist feeling the jawbone through the cheeks.
Examining the Interior of Your Mouth
After a thorough physical exam, your oral surgeon will evaluate the range of motion in your jaw. They will then thoroughly inspect your mouth. They'll ask you to clamp down on your jaw. While you do this, they will check your tooth alignment.
Checking the Stability of Your Jawbone
The next phase entails determining how stable your jawbone is. An emergency dentist will use a tongue depressor stick to check your tooth's stability. They'll test how well you're able to keep it in place.
Evaluating the Severity of the Injury
A final step in diagnosing a broken jaw involves getting an X-ray. The emergency dentist may recommend a computed tomography (CT) scan when the X-ray is inconclusive. A CT scan gives a clearer picture than an X-ray.
You shouldn't feel anxious about taking the test. Before beginning the examination, your emergency dentist gauges your level of discomfort. Your dentist will prescribe medication to alleviate your discomfort if your pain is severe.
Treating a Broken Jaw
After the dentist has finished their evaluation, they will suggest the best course of action. The course of action is determined by how severe the injury is. There are two types of fractures: stable fractures and unstable fractures. Stable fractures occur when the damage is not serious. In contrast, unstable fractures are serious injuries.
In such a case, you'll require surgery to repair the broken jaw. When you break your jaw, you’ll need to see an oral or maxillofacial surgeon for surgery. In the case of stable fractures, they use a wire to fix the lower and upper teeth together.
Fixing a Stable Fracture with Jaw Wiring
The process of wiring the jaw is referred to as MMF or maxillomandibular fixation. The dentist or oral surgeon will perform surgery to reattach your lower and upper jaws to fix your fractured jaw. The surgeon could use wires, metal devices, or rubber bands, to keep the teeth and jaws from moving apart. Jaw wirings are used to prevent your fractured jaw from moving too much so that it can heal properly.
Advantages of Using Jaw Wiring
Depending on the severity of the fracture of your mandible, you may suffer the following symptoms:
- Painful jaw issues brought on by jaw misalignment.
- You have trouble keeping your lips together when you've closed your mouth.
- Incorrect jaw and dental function.
- Speech impairments.
- The symmetry of your face becomes distorted.
All of these symptoms of a broken jaw can be remedied by wiring your teeth, which also promotes quick and full recovery of the jaw.
The Jaw Wiring Procedure
Jaw wiring primarily serves to restrict jaw movement. The wiring encourages quicker recovery. The oral dentist will insert bars on your lower and upper gums that secure the metallic wires or rubber bands in place. Jaw wiring requires hospitalization. Typically, the recovery from surgery takes approximately six weeks.
Risks Associated with Jaw Wiring
Some potential risks of jaw wiring are listed below.
Vomiting or Choking On Food
Choking can occur if your jaw has been wired. If you throw up, for instance, you could choke because you can't spit anything out. Carrying wire cutters with you at all times will help you prevent choking on your vomit. When you feel sick to your stomach or nauseous and are certain that you are about to throw up, use your wire cutters to cut the wiring.
Another risk concern connected to the wiring is bleeding. The incisions' wounds may begin to bleed. To stop the bleeding, dab the area with cotton.
Because of the jaw wiring, you could experience tingling or numbness inside your mouth. It could persist for a short period or for some time.
Infection is an additional potential risk that could arise from the wounds. Drainage and medications could help you get rid of the infections.
Recovery Period Following the Wiring Procedure
How long it takes to get back to normal following a wiring procedure is affected by the extent of the injuries. In addition, your general health has an effect as well. The wire will almost certainly cause mild jaw discomfort during the healing phase. You won't experience any pain throughout the wiring process because you'll be unconscious.
You may experience a little discomfort once the anesthetic wears off, as well as swelling. Your dentist will recommend medications to treat the discomfort and swelling. In most cases, removing the wiring does not need hospitalization.
Your dental specialist could also suggest surgery as an alternative option for fixing the broken jaw. Orthognathic surgery is the term used in medicine to describe jaw surgery.
The Risks Associated with Jaw Surgery
When performed by a qualified oral surgeon, the surgery is usually safe. The procedure carries certain risks, including the following:
- You could lose blood.
- You run the risk of suffering nerve damage if the procedure goes wrong.
- The wounds can become infected.
- A second procedure to fix any issues from the first procedure.
- There's a chance your jaw won't return to its original position.
- You could lose some of your jawbone.
- You could require root canal therapy for some of your teeth.
How to Get Ready for Your Surgery
The dental surgeon will recommend surgery after assessing the severity of the broken jaw. The orthodontist could use imaging tests to determine the most effective course of action for treatment.
The surgeon and orthodontic specialist can get a good look at the fractured jaw thanks to the 3-D images provided by the computerized tomography scans. When performing oral surgery, the surgeon could additionally utilize a computer-generated guide and plan.
The dental surgeon can use VSP (virtual surgical planning) to prepare for and carry out the procedure. VSP is a computerized tool that helps guide the dental surgeon through the process. The software aids the surgeon in carrying out the procedure as efficiently as possible.
What to Expect from Your Oral Surgery Procedure to Fix Your Broken Jaw
Below is what you can expect before, during, and after the procedure:
What to Expect Before The Procedure
The broken jaw will need to be repaired surgically to function properly again. In most cases, maxillofacial or oral surgeons are the ones who perform the procedure. Your oral surgeon will perform the procedure while you're under the influence of general anesthesia. In addition, you'll need to spend anywhere from 2-4 days in the hospital.
What Should I Expect During the Procedure?
If you've broken your jaw, you'll need oral surgery to fix it. As a result, you won't have any visible scarring on your jaw or chin after the procedure. The oral surgeon may, however, occasionally need to make a few small cuts outside your mouth.
During surgery, an oral surgeon or dentist will reposition the jaws so that they align properly. Once the jaws are in the ideal position, the dentist will secure them with screws or tiny bone plates. Additionally, your oral surgeon will use wires or rubber bands to keep the jawbones in place. The screws will eventually fuse with the surrounding bone.
During the surgical procedure, your oral surgeon may need to add a small amount of bone to the broken jaw to repair the fractured jaw, but this is contingent on the extent of the injury. This bone can be extracted from the thigh, rib, or hip. They will then use screws and dental plates to anchor that piece of bone to the jaw.
Maxillary (Upper Jaw) Osteotomy
Certain dental issues, such as but not limited to the following, can arise after you've broken your upper jaw:
- The upper jaw may disproportionately recede or protrude.
- You run the risk of developing a crossbite.
- The injuries might result in a few or a lot of teeth showing.
- An open bite.
Your upper jaw can retract when it fractures. If you've broken your jaw, an oral surgeon can shift the jaw forward so that it aligns with your bottom teeth properly. When your oral surgeon has finished realigning the upper jaw, they'll use the oral plates and screws to secure it into place.
Mandibular (Lower Jaw) Osteotomy
Mandibular osteotomy refers to surgical procedures performed on the lower jaw. If your fractured jaw has receded or protruded as a result of the accident, you may need surgery on your lower jaw.
What to Expect After the Procedure
Your oral surgeon will provide you with post-operative care recommendations after fixing your fractured jaw. Here are a few examples of what could be recommended:
- The types of foods you should be eating.
- How long it will be until you can get back to your normal schedule, whether that be school or work,.
- Dental hygiene.
- What to take for swelling and discomfort.
- Avoiding physically demanding activities.
It could take the jaw approximately six weeks to fully recover after the procedure. However, full recovery may take as long as 12 weeks. The dental surgeon will use braces to realign your teeth once the initial recovery process is complete, which typically takes around six months.
Broken Jaw Surgery Results
A fractured jaw can change the shape of your face. The functionality of your teeth, which could have suffered as a result of your broken jaw, will be restored. You will also no longer have speech impairment caused by a broken jaw.
Taking Care of Your Jaw After Receiving Treatment
You can do the following to take care of your jaw after the procedure:
Take the Prescribed Medications and Apply Ice as Instructed By Your Oral Surgeon
After surgery, there is a chance that you will experience a bit of swelling as well as pain. Your dental surgeon will provide you with pain medication. Applying ice to the fractured jaw helps to minimize swelling.
You could use a pre-made ice pack or make your own by placing crushed ice inside a plastic bag. Afterward, lay the bag over the affected region of the broken jaw. Do not apply ice straight to your face. You should wrap it in a towel. Repeat this process every fifteen to twenty minutes.
Take Blended or Soft Foods
After the procedure, your oral surgeon could choose to wire the jaws together. If this is the case, eating solid foods could be difficult for you. You'll need to take soft, blended meals with a syringe or straw. Some patients will not have their jaws wired shut after an oral surgery.
However, you must continue to eat soft foods to allow the jaw to recover. You are allowed to have gelatin, yogurt, pudding, bananas, pudding, and other desserts and items of similar consistency. Hard foods should be avoided since they may aggravate the area and hinder it from recovering correctly.
Maintain Good Oral Health
Even if you've had surgery to repair your fractured jaw, you still need to take care of your teeth and gums. Oral hygiene, on the other hand, becomes crucial when healing from a fractured jaw. You need to clean your mouth 4 to 6 times per day, preferably after meals.
Your oral surgeon can instruct you on what to do to maintain optimal oral hygiene. If you have any leftover food inside the mouth after eating, cleaning it will get rid of it. Food particles introduce bacteria that may result in wound infections.
To effectively clean your teeth, you should choose a toothbrush that is both small and soft. The gentle bristles of your toothbrush shouldn't cause as much scratching as a standard toothbrush would. A water flosser is a great addition to your regular dental care routine. A water flosser makes sure that all debris from the teeth is eliminated.
Do Not Participate in Sports Until You’re Fully Recovered
You may be an extremely active individual who longs to return to the outdoors. However, if you have a broken jaw, you shouldn't engage in any kind of sport. You run the risk of further damage to your jaw when you play sports. If you wish to return to the field, consult with your dentist about when it's safe to do so.
Avoid Straining Your Jaw
Avoid exerting pressure on the recovering jaw, especially while sleeping. The best sleeping position is on one's back.
Find an Emergency Dentist Near Me
One of the most common causes of a fractured jaw is sustaining trauma to the face. Trauma can be caused by falling, a sports injury, or another accident. If you have broken your jaw, you need to get medical attention as soon as possible.
At Washington Dental, we have emergency dentists who are trained and skilled in treating broken jaws. We provide exceptional emergency dental care to help you get back your smile. If you're in Lomita, California, and require treatment for your broken jaw, call us today at 310-326-5183.