Jaw trauma can be painful, stressful, and overwhelming, especially if you do not act quickly and deliberately in the minutes, hours, and days after an injury. While there are countless ways that jaw trauma can occur, it is most commonly caused by:
- Blunt force trauma to the face.
- Physical assaults.
- Traffic accidents.
- Workplace accidents.
- Slips and falls.
- Sports and recreation accidents.
Types of Jaw Trauma: Dislocated Jaw & Broken Jaw
After jaw trauma takes place, it is vital to understand what kind of jaw injury or jaw injuries you have sustained. There are three major types of jaw trauma:
- Contusion. A mandibular contusion, also known as a bruised jaw, is caused by a traumatic impact and involved damaged tissue and bleeding under the skin. A jaw contusion can result in painful red (and later black-and-blue) areas and swelling that results in issues like tenderness, difficulty talking, and difficulty chewing. Frequently a contusion to your jaw will indirectly bruise the joint that allows the to move known as the temporomandibular joint, or TMJ. This can limit your ability to chew, open and close your mouth and create a change in your bite. An evaluation from an Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeon should be sought to minimize the potential for permanent problems and rule out the possibility of a jaw fracture.
- A dislocated jaw occurs when the temporomandibular joint (TMJ) on either or both side of your face becomes displaced from the base of the skull. This is usually obvious because the victim is unable to close the mouth. The symptoms of a dislocated jaw include pain, swelling, a change in the appearance of the face, bruising, difficulty talking, and difficulty chewing. Dislocated jaws must be put back into place by a medical professional with the help of local anesthetics and muscle relaxants.
- A broken jaw occurs when the upper and/or lower jaw bone is fractured in one or more places. The symptoms of a broken jaw can include pain, facial numbness, change in the bite, bleeding, swelling, difficulty talking, and difficulty chewing. A broken jaw is treated by immobilizing the jaw and/or jaw surgery. Rarely, a broken jaw can create a circumstance in which the victim is unable to support the airway or breath. Obviously this is an emergency requiring immediate attention from a medical professional.
Both broken jaws and dislocated jaws must be diagnosed by a doctor through the use of X-Ray.
What To Do After A Jaw Injury
- Locate missing teeth. Jaw trauma is often paired with tooth trauma. If this is the case, be sure to find all missing teeth and place them in milk (or water if milk is not available). A dentist may be able to save the teeth if you seek care quickly enough. If avulsed teeth are to be saved, they must be reinserted by an appropriate professional within 30 minutes. Even in this circumstance there is a high probability they will eventually be lost permanently, but after 30 minutes, the probability they will not survive increases significantly.
- Tie jaw closed. In the event of a hanging jaw, use a towel, handkerchief, or shirt to tie the jaw closed (knot the cloth at the top of the head). This can prevent jaw movement, preventing some pain and further injury.
- Apply ice pack. An ice pack or bag of frozen vegetables on the jaw can reduce pain and swelling while you wait to receive emergency medical assistance.
- Get professional medical assistance immediately. There are serious consequences to not getting your bruised, dislocated or broken jaw treated as quickly as possible. For example, you jaw or TMJ may not heal correctly, leaving you with long-term or permanent issues with appearance, chewing, talking, or breathing.
Jaw Surgery After Facial Trauma at the Surgical Arts Centre
At the Surgical Arts Centre, we understand how traumatic facial injuries can be. Our experienced team of medical professionals is here and ready to help you heal and recover by providing corrective jaw surgery to those who need it. To learn more about our physicians, or to ask a question about our medical services, please contact us today or call (406) 549-6600.