Jaw injuries are among the most serious types of dental issues as they often occur as a direct result of trauma. Most people who sustain this type of ailment have been involved in some kind of sporting accident on the field of play.
For this reason, it is not uncommon for patients to damage other areas such as their face, mouth or teeth. Additionally, harm to the neck can also take place, which heightens the requirement for a thorough diagnosis to be carried out before a solution can be decided upon.
People who believe they have broken their jaw should visit a hospital for treatment as soon as the injury is sustained, but an oral surgeon should also be consulted in cases where teeth need attention. By visiting an accident and emergency department, individuals can receive specialist advice on the overall nature of their ailment, so a precise plan of action can be carried out.
Why are jaw injuries so complex?
The intricate nature of the jaw joints (temporomandibular) means that treatment can be extremely complex. While these times of incidents are extremely common among people of all ages, it can be difficult to provide a general solution for an issue that can cause a number of subsidiary problems including pain in the face, neck and the back.
Additionally, people who have sustained injury in this area can often experience headaches that can result in them grinding their teeth heavily at night – which can lead to a number of wider oral health issues.
Most of the symptoms that are brought on by an injury to the jaw are worsened when a person’s bite is not correctly aligned, creating an underbite or overbite. This issue can also have a direct result on the extent of the accompanying pain and discomfort.
Individuals can experience natural temporamandibular dysfunction, which they can receive help with from a dental professional. Physiotherapy exercises carried out every day can provide a degree of relief for patients living with this problem.
A high number of people choose to receive orthodontic treatment to realign their teeth with the hope of resolving issues with their bite. Braces worn over a two to three year period can gradually move the teeth into their ideal position, while more severe cases could require oral surgery to physically move the jaw into place.
Although orthodontic treatment is commonly associated with adolescents, dental professionals have noted an increase in adults seeking these types of procedures as they look to make improvements to their smile.
Older people who opt for cosmetic dentistry to correct issues with their pearly whites can enjoy higher self-esteem after years of shying away from social situations due to their appearance.
What should I do if my jaw is broken?
If the jaw is broken or dislocated it is vital it is returned to its natural position as quickly as possible, something that should be carried out by an emergency dentist. Patients are advised not to touch the affected area themselves as it could create longer-term damage and more complications that could make the issue difficult to resolve.
A medical professional will assess the extent of the ailment, with many doctors recommending painkillers and liquid diet to correct the issue. In many cases, the area can re-set itself over the course of around six weeks if opening the mouth too wide is avoided.
When the break is more serious, the jaw still needs to be returned to its original position, but may require extra support to remain in place when it heels. Hospital staff are likely to prescribe anti-spasmodic medicines to relax the muscles in these instances to allow a professional to move the mouth back into position by hand.
People who have undergone this type of treatment are advised to stick to a soft foods or liquid diet for around six to eight weeks, with more severe cases requiring the installation of wires to place the bone back into its correct position.
Surgery is only needed when the jaw is badly broken, which allows it to be moved gently back into place.
Will I know my jaw is broken?
Although many people believe the pain caused by a broken jaw will make it easy to identify, individuals may overlook this injury if they are disorientated or concussed as a result of the incident. When this occurs, it may be difficult to localise any pain and identify what is causing it, which means knowledge of the symptoms should be increased.
Many people who suffer a fracture to their jaw bone may not realise until they are informed of the telltale signs, despite being fully aware of the pain.
Difficulty breathing is one of the most common symptoms of this type of break, with patients often feeling as though their airways are slightly blocked. If the mouth is bleeding, this problem can make it exceptionally easy to breathe the blood into the lungs.
Some patients will also find they struggle when trying to speak after sustaining this type of ailment and should seek treatment from a dental professional as soon as possible.
After a sporting injury or other situations where dental trauma is experienced, individuals should monitor their eating and chewing habits to determine an issue that they may have overlooked immediately after the event.
What course of action should I take?
In all cases of broken jaws, immediate emergency treatment is required. Swelling can be reduced by applying an ice pack to the affected area, while bleeding can be curbed with the use of a cotton wool pad.
The most important thing to remember is not to try and reset the jaw bone without the presence of a medical professional. Additional assistance can be provided by wrapping a bandage around the head to support the mouth, which could also reduce the pain slightly.
Over-the-counter painkillers should not be used to reduce discomfort in these instances because the majority of patients find they are unable to swallow the tablets.
How long is the recovery process?
Individuals who have their jaw wired may find it takes around six to eight weeks for the area to become stabilised. However, a dentist or doctor could be able to reduce the amount of support provided as time goes on, which can make it much more comfortable. This will also allow some more movement to take place.
Due to the complex nature of this joint, it is possible that the area will not heal perfectly. Some people will suffer from aches and pains every now and again because the bite is not in the same position as it was previously.
Additionally, the fragility of the jaw bone following an injury could make it more susceptible to breaks or dislocations in the future. For this reason, individuals who take part in high contact physical activity should ensure they wear a mouth guard.