Suffering from a broken jaw is among the most severe dental problems. The injury causes excruciating pain and difficulties in doing basic activities like eating. A broken jaw is classified as an emergency, so you need immediate medical attention.
Failure to see your dentist fast will not only prolong your painful experience but also create potentially worse complications on the tissue and bones surrounding the jaw. You need a skilled and highly experienced dentist who is ready to provide treatment expeditiously for effective recovery. They should also do all the necessary tests before determining treatment based on your symptoms.
At Washington Dental, we are equipped to handle extreme dental emergencies, including broken jaws. Over the years, we have helped multiple patients seeking treatment in Lomita, California, make a full recovery from broken jaws using highly effective treatment methods. Further, we are ready to provide additional support beyond the medical procedures by encouraging you through the challenging recovery period.
Common Causes of Broken Jaws
Sometimes, you may be unsure of the exact nature of your condition, particularly if you have experienced the high impact that causes symptoms of a broken jaw. Thus, learning of the various causes of broken jaws is useful in helping you determine the severity of your injury.
In return, you appreciate the importance of seeing an emergency dentist help you receive the necessary treatment. Additionally, describing the cause of broken jaws to your dentist is beneficial in helping them make a proper diagnosis and treatment course. The various causes of this condition are:
Among the leading causes of broken jaws are road accidents involving vehicles, bicycles, motorbikes, and pedestrians. Depending on the amount of impact targeting your jaw, your mandibular bone may break or dislocate from its position. The subsequent movement will then cause a worse fracture, especially as you hit a hard surface on the interior of a car.
Due to the accident force, jaw fractures may occur on both the upper and lower jaw. However, fractures on the upper side are often classified under general facial fractures. This is because the upper jaw bone structure is stationary and connected to the skull directly.
Sports athletes also have to deal with the risk of broken jaws when playing, particularly if their sports uniform does not allow helmet use. For example, boxers are regular casualties suffering from jaw fractures because they have to endure hard blows.
Even for sports like football, where helmets are allowed, this severe injury is prevalent. For example, when opposing teammates huddle on top of you, their force may push your jaw against the hard helmet surface. Consequently, you may suffer a mild to moderate fracture that will take time to recover.
Dental Processes Requiring You to Open Your Mouth Wide
Similarly, opening your mouth too wide will result in a broken jaw, mainly if the force keeping the mouth wide open increases. Further, most dental procedures have you facing upwards, so gravity will pull your head down. This extreme position can be dangerous if no safety precautions are taken to hold your mouth in position.
Although it may seem unlikely, some patients have also broken their jaws from vomiting violently. Again, you will have your mouth open so that the pushing force may shift the jawbone placement. Often, these types of injuries are minor and only take a few weeks to heal.
Victims of physical abuse like assault may also have to deal with a broken jaw from the perpetrator’s force. Normally, the explosive onset of violence may occur unexpectedly, meaning that any part of your body is vulnerable to harm. Hence, blows on your head, including your jawline, are likely to be severe, requiring extreme treatment options.
Biting into Hard Items
Lastly, you should avoid biting into hard objects because the force exerted on your jaw may fracture it. Usually, hard foods are manageable for most people, but they still pose a risk if biting occurs using extreme force. You should also avoid using your teeth for tasks like opening sodas or other tightly sealed objects, as they may lead to the same condition.
Symptoms of a Broken Jaw
Upon suffering an injury from any causes discussed above, you may need a reference point to help you determine whether your jaw is broken. Over the years, emergency dentists have identified several symptoms that recur in most cases involving broken jaws. Subsequently, using this list of symptoms to gauge the type of fracture you have can help you seek the appropriate medical treatment. The symptoms of a broken jaw are:
Extreme pain in the jaw area.
A numb and swollen face.
Bleeding around the injured area.
Experiencing discomfort when chewing and speaking.
Numbness on your gums.
The Diagnostic Procedures
After experiencing one or more of the listed symptoms, seeking treatment from your emergency dentist should follow. While at the clinic, your dentist will run several exams to grasp the full effect of your injury and the possible treatment options to explore. Therefore, you can expect to undergo several tests before receiving additional treatment and recovery information.
The first process involves conducting a physical examination. Your dentist will record all observations by feeling and examining the jaw movement. Next, they will ask you to bite if possible and check on the teeth’ alignment. This is often a sign of a fractured jaw, as you will have a difficult time making a proper alignment when in pain.
Checking on the mandibular jaw position is also necessary for a successful diagnosis and treatment. You should note that the mandibular jaw is more prone to fractures because it moves while the maxillary jaw remains stationary. Prevalent injuries include fractures, dislocations, and defragmentation in adverse cases.
Thus, your dentist will conduct the needed physical tests to collect data on the extent of your fracture. Further, the dentist may need to feel the affected area despite having some swelling. This procedure should help them feel the new jaw position after intense force pushes it outside the connecting point. In case of any unusual placement, further action is taken to establish the problem.
On top of this, you will need to have X-ray images and CT scans taken to provide a graphical representation of the damage internally. Thanks to the produced images, your dentist can identify the exact position requiring surgery or wiring for a smooth recovery process. Usually, the imaging process is short and painless, so you do not need to worry about the various machines used during the process.
Finally, your dentist should also learn about your medical history, as the details influence your treatment method significantly. For example, if you are allergic to the anesthetic medication used to sedate you during jaw surgery, they need to organize alternative anesthetics for a successful surgery.
Moreover, some patients are more prone to broken jaws than others based on underlying conditions like osteoporosis and bone atrophy. Due to this, your dentist needs to know whether you suffer from any conditions that compromise your bone density, leaving you susceptible to fractures. With the details you provide, your treatment can include semi-permanent fixtures that prevent the recurrence of a broken jaw.
Treating a Broken Jaw
As mentioned, your emergency dentist will conduct a physical examination, as well as additional tests and scans to determine the severity of the injury. The information is useful in determining the best treatment method to apply, as each patient's symptoms and severity differ from mild, moderate, and severe jaw fractures. Therefore, treatment is also administered based on the three classifications of injury.
Treatment for Mild Jaw Fractures
A patient suffering from a mild fracture will have a simple or closed jaw, meaning that the fracture does not protrude from the skin, nor does the bone placement exhibit any extreme disjoint. Thus, the best course of action is to ensure the jaw moves as little as possible until the tissues surrounding it recover.
This treatment method involves simple jaw resting as the main remedy, although your dentist will advise you on additional exercises to undertake. For example, apart from resting the jaw, you will also have to avoid other habits like clenching or grinding your teeth.
Refraining from these practices will ensure that no additional force stresses the affected jaw area, leading to a smooth recovery. Additional treatment methods include providing pain medication for the patient to combat discomfort.
Treatment for Moderate Broken Jaw Cases
The second type of fracture that may occur leads to moderate symptoms. As a result, your treatment will be more advanced but without invasive procedures. Common injuries classified as moderate include the greenstick condition, whereby one side of your jaw appears bent while the affected area suffers a fracture.
Your dentist may also diagnose the fracture as indirect, whereby the jawbone suffers the impact, but the broken part is slightly further from the jaw connection area. Lastly, a moderately broken jaw may also be diagnosed as impacted, where one side of the mandibular jaw is pushed into a different section by extreme force.
Since all these fractures involve moderate jaw disjoint, the ideal treatment is to hold the upper and lower jaw together using a wire. The procedure aims at re-aligning the jaws over time by reducing the possibility of displacement on the lower jaw. Over time, the tissue will grow around the broken jaw and strengthen its position for a full recovery.
Treatment for Severely Broken Jaws
The final category involves severely broken jaws, where the victim exhibits symptoms of trauma through the skin or upon a physical examination. A common diagnosis for severe fractures is the open fracture, whereby the jaw bone protrudes beyond the victim's skin. It is often visible from the outside, meaning that you will have suffered extreme trauma and bleeding.
Secondly, your broken jaw may have resulted from the intense force that cracked the bone structure on top of breaking it. Consequently, some disjointed chips from the broken jaw may be present, causing a condition called a comminuted fracture. These pose a serious threat to your wellbeing and should be handled as soon as possible to prevent further injury to the follow-up surrounding tissues and blood vessels.
The suitable treatment option for severely broken jaws involves surgery, where your emergency dentist performs the necessary procedures to avert danger and begin the recovery process. We understand that for some, undergoing dental surgery may be a new experience that causes uneasiness. Nevertheless, you do not have to worry about the procedure, as only well-experienced and trained dental surgeons will handle your case.
Moreover, we have some pre-treatment guidelines that help you prepare for the dental procedure before it begins. By following these directives, you will have a good experience overall that allows you to focus on your recovery. Some of the guidelines to follow include:
Remain Calm and Ask About any Issues that Raise Concerns
The fear of the unknown is among the biggest triggers of anxiety, so you can manage it by receiving as much information as possible from your dentist. For example, if you are worried about the pain intensity as the jawbone is realigned before stitching, we recommend raising the issue with the dentist pending the surgery. They will provide enough information on the type of anesthesia to be induced and how long it takes to wear off.
Do Not Ingest Anything Hours to the Surgery
We understand the difficulties you may face in eating and drinking immediately after suffering the injury. Thus, most patients are not keen on having a meal or drink, even when the time frame before surgery allows it. Despite this, your dentist will provide useful tips on ingesting food to help you maintain nutrition regardless of an upcoming dental procedure.
However, we discourage patients from consuming any food or drink before their surgery, as subsequent digestion and rising insulin levels may interfere with the anesthesia-induced surgery. Consequently, you may wake up as the process is ongoing, leading to potential challenges in the surgery.
Arrive at the Clinic or Operating Waiting Area On Time
As mentioned, most surgical procedures will occur hours after you first check into the clinic because they are classified as emergencies. However, scheduling the surgery to the next day or a few days after injury is possible, depending on the fracture angle and affected areas. Thus, if your procedure is scheduled for another day, you want to arrive at the clinic on time. This will help you avoid the pressure of rushing through the preparation session, as it may throw you off.
Overall, you should note that you may have a relatively short period to address all your concerns since the surgical procedure is part of emergency treatment. However, we will do our best to ensure that you are calm and physically ready for the process to help you attain the required peace of mind.
Post-Treatment Care Tips
When the emergency treatment procedures are complete, your dentist will discharge you from the clinic and issue some directives on how to manage the condition at home. Following the issued tips is crucial to making a complete recovery, so we recommend doing your best to uphold them. Some of the care tips to observe include:
Hold Your Jaw Shut as Directed
After suffering from a broken jaw, holding it in one position is necessary for proper recovery and realignment, especially for moderate and mild injuries. Additionally, the tissues surrounding the area operated on after a severe injury need enough time to recover and reintegrate with the other tissues accordingly. Hence, you should refrain from moving your jaw unless necessary, as it will help speed up the recovery rate.
However, following this instruction may be difficult based on the importance of moving your jaw to speak, bite and chew. You can therefore use alternative means to achieve your goals without interfering with the treatment. For example, you can use a notebook and pen to communicate, or even try electronic means like text to voice applications. On the other hand, you will have to modify your diet to a manageable consistency.
Eat Soft Foods and Maintain a Balanced Diet
Eating with a broken jaw can be quite difficult, and fulfilling your daily nutritional requirements becomes a struggle. Despite this, you can uphold a healthy food intake by switching to a soft food diet that reduces strain on the jaw. Several options are available, but you can incorporate as much as possible to help you maintain the recommended caloric intake.
For example, you can substitute a crunchy salad for a pureé version that has a thick consistency. You will have an easier time swallowing the food instead of having to chew all the pieces painfully. Similarly, you can pureé your fruits and vegetables or make a smoothie for easier consumption. Additional soft foods include:
Well cooked rice and pasta
Canned beef or tuna
Soup containing essential nutrients
On top of this, you should avoid consuming hot foods because the temperature may cause discomfort and difficulty in swallowing. The problem arises when you need to spit hot food out as a reflex, leading to a disjointed jaw that takes longer to heal. Hence, we recommend warm food if necessary to avoid the potentially harmful effects.
Uphold Oral Hygiene During Recovery
Since moving your jaw during the healing period is discouraged, you will use alternate oral hygiene methods that prevent bacteria from breeding without straining your mouth. A practical solution to the oral hygiene dilemma is swirling some antibacterial mouthwash at least twice a day until you can brush your teeth again. You should aim to observe this directive throughout, as your oral hygiene may otherwise be compromised from the reduced brushing practices.
Complete Your Pain Medication Prescriptions
Taking all prescribed medication is an integral part of making a full recovery, as they provide the required relief. Two main types of drugs are prescribed for patients who suffer from a broken jaw. Firstly, you will receive pain relief medicine that reduces the discomfort caused by injury.
The second type is anti-inflammatory medicine to reduce swelling around your face after a moderate or severe injury. While the pain may subside after some days, taking your pain medication should always be a priority to prevent recurrence of discomfort.
If your injury involved a skin rupture, antibiotics might also be part of the prescribed medication issued. Finishing your dose is necessary to prevent the microbes from forming a resistance against the drugs.
Attend Follow up Appointments
Despite your emergency dentist providing manageable treatment for your broken jaw, he/she needs to keep tabs on the recovery progress. Moreover, he/she may discover other conditions that need medical attention during these appointments, particularly if you have moved your jaw since treatment.
Other important procedures like changing the jaw alignment wire also occur during the follow-up appointments to promote complete re-alignment. Hence, missing these dental visits could slow down your recovery time significantly.
Find an Emergency Dentist Near Me
We understand how painful and uncomfortable broken jaws are to a patient, especially because they face many limitations, including speaking, eating, and yawning when needed. Further, the condition poses additional risks if not addressed on time, leading to irreversible outcomes.
To avoid these detrimental effects, we recommend reaching your emergency dentist as soon as possible after you or a loved one suffers from the injury. A reliable dentist should be available to handle the case on time to help you manage the painful symptoms. Thus, you want to find a professional and skilled dentist to attend to your broken jaw with precision and gentleness.
At Washington Dental, we are dedicated to providing impeccable and effective emergency dental services. We are equipped to remedy a broken jaw, and we will help you through the recovery journey one step at a time. If you or a loved one requires emergency dental treatment for a broken jaw in Lomita, California, contact us today at 310-326-5183.