A broken jaw should be an emergency for several reasons. First, untreated broken jaw bones will affect the way you eat, drink, or even talk. It’s because jawbones are responsible for the way your mouth opens and closes.

Second, broken jawbones are at risk of infections, dental decay, and long-term conditions like arthritis. That is why you need medical treatment right away if you suspect that your jawbones might have broken. Immediate treatment will prevent any breathing or bleeding problems you could experience as a result.

If you are looking for emergency dentistry services in Carson, CA, contact Washington Dental. Our trained and experienced emergency dentists are always on call to ensure that you receive the proper treatment as soon as possible.

Broken Jaw — Overview

A broken jaw is a fracture of the human jawbone or mandible. It is mainly confused with a dislocated jaw, which occurs when the lower jaw moves out of its position. Both conditions are severe as they are bound to affect the normal functioning of your mouth and general wellbeing.

There are several causes of a broken jaw, as will be discussed in detail later. The most common one is trauma to the face. Simple actions like biting or yawning can cause jawbone dislocation. If a dysfunctional jaw feels pain, you might have dislocated or broken it. It is advisable to seek immediate medical help before the problem escalates.

A broken jawbone does not hurt just at the point of injury. You could experience severe pain on the entire jaw, mouth, and face too. It will also restrict jaw movement. You might notice facial bruising or swelling at the point where you were hurt.

Your dentist will first assess the damage to your jawbone before recommending treatment. The type of treatment you’ll receive will depend on the severity of the injury. For instance, a general doctor might try to reposition the dislocated jaws without any medical intervention if it is a dislocation. However, a severe case of a broken jaw will require more intense treatment to heal, like surgery.

Dentists categorize treatment of broken jaws under emergency dentistry services. As previously mentioned, a broken jaw can be very painful, prompting you to seek urgent medical treatment for some relief. A significant swelling on the face could accompany the pain. These are symptoms that are impossible to ignore or live with, hence the need for immediate medical treatment.

A broken jaw could also create problems with eating, drinking, or breathing. A minute longer into symptoms like those could worsen the situation, resulting in medical issues that are more complicated and expensive to treat. Immediate medical treatment is necessary if you wish to minimize those symptoms and accelerate healing.

Therefore, if you were in an accident and suspect that your jawbone could have broken, it is essential to contact your dentist immediately. An experienced dentist will quickly assess the situation and provide a quick remedy to relieve your pain and swelling. He/she will also recommend proper treatment to ensure that your broken jawbone is fixed before it results in any complications.

Causes of Broken Jawbones

Trauma to the face is the leading cause of broken jawbones. Intense trauma to the face caused by accident is likely to affect the jawbone, extending from the chin to behind the ear. Here are some of the common causes of dislocations and fractures in the jawbone:

Physical Assault to the Face

Facial trauma refers to any injury to the face. It could be minor or significant, and might involve facial bones, including the upper jawbone, also referred to as the maxilla. A physical assault on your face could also affect your lower jaw, eye socket, nose, forehead, and cheek. Its severity depends on whether or not a blunt object was used in the assault.

But how do you know if you have suffered a broken jaw after a physical assault on your face? Common symptoms to watch out for include:

  • Changes in the feeling of your face or cheeks
  • Uneven or deformed face or facial bones — You can feel the irregularities through touch.
  • Involuntary shifting of the upper or lower jaw even when the head is still

A dentist could recommend a CT scan of the face to determine the location and extent of the fracture.

Sports Injuries

The majority of jaw fractures happen during sporting activities. The most sensitive body part for sportspeople is their face. Any forceful, direct impact on the face could result in fractures on the lower and upper jaws.

Fractured bones are significant for sportspeople, as it means a long absence from the sport. Because of that, and also to avoid severe complications, it is essential for an injured sportsperson to seek medical help immediately.

Broken jaw injuries for sportspeople are common in sports like boxing, where a person is likely to be knocked in the face. Other sports include basketball, football, and handball.

Vehicle Accidents

Vehicle accidents are another major cause of broken jawbones. When a person experiences facial trauma in a car accident, it is likely to result in broken bones, especially jawbones. When your jaw is broken in a car accident, you require immediate treatment to reset the bones in place and anything else that will promote quick recovery. 

You are likely to experience several other injuries in a car accident. But if you notice bleeding from the mouth, problems while opening or closing your mouth, or an appearance of a lump on your face, it is vital to have your jawbones checked for fractures.

Accidental Falls

Broken jawbones have been reported after accidental falls, whether at home or in the workplace. When you slip and fall or something else happens that makes you fall, you are likely to injure your face and mouth if you land on your face. Some falls are graver than others.

Therefore, the extent of your injuries will be determined by the impact of that fall. After an accidental fall, watch out for some of the symptoms mentioned below and seek medical help immediately. You might want to avoid eating or drinking anything before a doctor examines your injuries.

Work-related Injuries

Other broken jaw accidents are experienced after a work-related injury. As mentioned above, you are likely to break your jawbones after a fall in your workplace. It could be that you were hit by falling or flying objects in your workplace. The impact of the fall or trauma will determine the gravity of the injuries.

Most broken jaw injuries affect the lower jaw, commonly referred to as the mandible. The mandible is usually separate from the rest of the skull and connects to the head through the temporomandibular joints (TMJs). These TMJs are responsible for the opening and closing of the mouth.

When the mandibular bone shatters or breaks, the injury could result in a total break with the displacement of the bone or a fracture without bone displacement. A dislocation is less severe than a fracture and occurs when the mandible becomes detached from the TMJs.

The lower jaw, also called the maxilla, can break too. However, most broken lower jawbones are treated as injuries to the face and not broken jaws.

Trauma to the face can cause both dislocation and fracture of the jawbones. Both the lower and upper jaws are at risk of injury, but the exact location of the injury is determined by the location and degree of the trauma.

Symptoms of a Broken Jaw

If you have suffered trauma to the face, it is not easy to tell right away whether you’ve incurred a dislocation or fracture to your jaw.  Both injuries have very similar symptoms. However, there are distinctive signs for a broken jaw to watch out for. They are:

Jaw Pain

Jaw pain can be debilitating, making it impossible for you to drink, eat, talk or simply open and close your mouth. More pain could mean that you have incurred a more severe injury, like a fracture to your jawbone. You’ll need immediate relief from pain, then proper treatment to take care of the injury.

Swelling on the Face

Swelling on the face is a clear indication of an injury on the face or in the mouth. Therefore, if you have suffered trauma to the face, swelling is a straight indication that the injury you have incurred is serious. It is best to seek immediate medical help instead of trying to manage the swelling at home.

Bleeding From the Mouth

A severe injury to the mouth could be manifested through bleeding. You may start bleeding from the mouth, making it hard for you to breathe because the flowing blood blocks your airwaves. It’s another reason to seek immediate medical help if you notice bleeding through the mouth after severe trauma to the face.

Breathing Difficulties

Difficulty in breathing is the uncomfortable feeling of not being able to draw in a complete breath. It is likely to be experienced if there is bleeding after a broken jawbone.

Other symptoms include:

  • Discomfort or pain when chewing
  • Bruising and numbness in your face
  • Stiffness of the jaw
  • Dental-related discomforts, like numbness in your gums or a loose tooth

The most direct indications of a broken/fractured jaw after trauma to the face are swelling, pain and bleeding. Your entire face could be affected. The swelling will make the jaw stiff and painful. 

More pain could be experienced when you try to speak or chew. If the fracture is severe, you’ll have a limited capacity to move your jaw. In some cases, you’ll not move your jaws at all.

Bruising and numbness in your face are pretty normal if you have suffered a broken or fractured jawbone. A fractured bone could also present other abnormalities, like distorting your facial shape. You could also notice a lumpy appearance on your face. If the injury or fall was severe, you might have one or more loose teeth.

When to Seek Help With a Broken Jaw

If you have suffered trauma to the face and have experienced one or more of the symptoms discussed above, it is time to seek immediate medical help.

As previously mentioned, a broken jaw should be treated as an emergency. It is because a delay in treatment could worsen the situation, put your mouth at risk of infections, and become expensive to treat. You must not ignore some of the symptoms, such as bleeding through the mouth and difficulties in breathing, because they could give rise to other medical emergencies.

Thus, it is vital if you have someone rush you to the hospital immediately you are injured. For the reasons mentioned above, it is best to avoid driving yourself to the emergency department. It is also for the safety of other road users.

If you experience more severe symptoms and cannot go to the hospital, it is best to dial 911. Symptoms like breathing problems could be a result of the tongue’s loss of support. Doctors must immediately take care of any problems with bleeding or breathing.

Once at the emergency department, the doctor will administer first aid to relieve you of your immediate and severe symptoms. He/she will then conduct a series of examinations to determine the extent of your injuries. The doctor could also order an X-ray to achieve a closer inspection of your injuries. Sometimes blood tests could be required.

The physical exam conducted at the emergency department will include a general assessment of your face for any bruising, obvious deformity, or swelling. The doctor will also inspect your TMJs, then look out for any vascular or nerve problems. He/she will proceed to feel the jawbone through your skin. Your doctor will also assess the movement of your mandible.

Once the physical examination is over, the doctor could check the inside of your mouth. He/she could ask you to bite down to check the alignment of your teeth. The doctor will also check the stability of your jaw by administering a straight blade test. He/she would intend to check whether you can hold it in place.

The final examination would be through an X-ray screening. A panoramic X-ray is recommended as it will show the doctor the status of the entire jaw area. If the X-ray result is not conclusive, your doctor may recommend a CT scan. The CT scan will reveal the level and extent of the broken jaw.

Medical Treatment for Broken Jaw

If you have a broken jaw, it is best to have it checked and treated by a dentist specializing in oral surgery. 

Medical treatment for a broken jaw will depend on the severity and extent of the fracture. Here are some ways through which your dentist can treat your broken jaw:

Use of Antibiotics

Your dentist will evaluate your injury further once it is determined that you have a broken jaw. Most fractures to the jawbone bring forth gum issues and tissue damage. They are considered open fractures and must be treated with antibiotics. Antibiotics will help kill bacteria or inhibit its growth. They will help prevent any infections that could affect your gum and mouth.

A Tetanus Shot

Your dentist could also recommend a tetanus shot if he/she suspects that your wound could have been or will be infected by tetanus.

Tetanus is a type of bacteria that enters the human body through an injury. If your broken jaw left an open wound where the skin broke, you might be given a tetanus shot.

Your dentist needs to protect you from infections. A break on your skin leaves you at risk of getting a tetanus infection, which causes muscle spasms and could be fatal.

Pain Management

Pain is among the most significant symptoms of a broken jawbone. Thus, the doctor will manage your pain adequately from the time you come to the emergency department. Your dentist will also give you pain medications to manage your pain for a few more days as your jaw heals.

Wiring the Jaw Shut

Some fractures to the mandible are stable and could be treated by simply wiring the lower and upper jaw together. A maxillofacial and oral surgeon can do this. Only more unstable fractures will require surgery. Your dentist could recommend a surgery method that uses plates across the fractured area. It will enable you to have normal movement of your jaw soon after the operation. It means that you could start eating right away.

Wiring is done through a wrapped bandage around a patient’s head and under their chin to keep them from opening their jaw wide. Your dentist will then provide you with anti-inflammatory medications to reduce swelling and numb the pain.

Dentists could treat severe breaks to the jaw through wiring to promote quick recovery. Elastic bands and wires could keep your jaws closed and your teeth in place during the recovery period. However, it could be a challenge if you experience choking or vomiting during the recovery period. If you need the wire opened, you will have to notify your dentist to open and replace them immediately. The goal is to have the wires intact for 3 to 4 weeks for better recovery.

Recovering from a fractured jaw requires a lot of patience. You might not open your mouth wide, at least for close to two months after treatment.

Care After Broken Jaw Treatment

After medical treatment, it is important to follow up with the surgeon, take your medication and follow all instructions and recommendations given.

With proper treatment, your broken jaw might heal in one or two months.

During the healing process, avoid overworking your jaw. For instance, you might have to minimize talking, opening your mouth wide, and only eating soft foods and plenty of drinks.

Dentists recommend a soft diet in the place of chewy or crunchy food for patients recovering from a broken jaw. Foods like crunchy snacks, fresh meats, and raw produce will strain your healing jaw, causing you more pain.

Here is a list of soft foods you could include in your diet during the recovery period:

  • Canned meat
  • Well-cooked rice or pasta
  • Canned fruit
  • Soup

If your jaw is wired, you will need to make an even more drastic change to your diet. Since you’ll not be opening and closing your mouth during the recovery period, your dentist will recommend a daily allowance of minerals and vitamins that you could ingest through a straw.

You may not be able to take in enough calories. Therefore, it is essential to watch what you eat every day. Some of the foods that help you increase your calorie intake during this period are pureed food prepared with cream or milk. You could also eat well-cooked meats, pureed fruits, and vegetables. They will ensure you remain healthy, at least for that period of recovery.

Note that eating healthy for patients whose jaws have been wired could mean eating more regularly than they are used to. Instead of the usual three or four meals a day, you might increase your meals to up to eight to ensure that you take in enough nutrients every day.

Keep your meals small and more frequent. Also, include healthy drinks like milk and smoothies. You might have to cut back on beverages with no calories, like tea, coffee, or diet soda.

Lastly, ensure that all your meals are lukewarm. After an injury, your teeth are a little more sensitive, and extreme temperatures could hurt.

Find Emergency Broken Jaw Services Near Me

If you suspect that your jaw has broken, it is advisable to call for emergency dentistry services. An emergency dentist will administer first aid and quickly determine the gravity and extent of your injury for quick and effective treatment. At Washington Dental, we offer quality emergency dentistry services to all people. Therefore, you can count on the help of our skilled and trained dentists for a quick response and effective treatment of your broken jaw. For more information and assistance regarding our emergency dentistry services in Carson, CA, call us at 310-217-1507. We have extensive experience in taking care of various dental needs.