Jaw Fracture In Adults

What is a jaw fracture?

A jaw fracture is a break in your jawbone. It may take weeks or months for the jawbone to heal.

What causes a jaw fracture?

Jaw fractures occur when your face has been injured. This can happen during contact sports, such as football, or during a motor vehicle accident. A jaw fracture can also occur if you are hit in the face during a physical attack.

What are the signs and symptoms of a jaw fracture?

  • Swelling, pain, bruising, or bleeding in your jawbone

  • Pain in front of your ear

  • Your upper and lower teeth are not aligned properly

  • Broken or missing teeth

  • Pain during jaw movement

  • Trouble pressing your teeth together

  • Trouble opening or closing your mouth

How is a jaw fracture diagnosed?

Your caregiver will do a physical exam. He will ask you about your injury and about your symptoms. You may also need the following:

  • X-rays: An x-ray is a picture of your jawbone. You may need to have more than one x-ray.

  • CT scan: This test is also called a CAT scan. An x-ray machine uses a computer to take pictures of your jawbone. The pictures may show broken bones, and damaged tissue and blood vessels. You may be given a dye before the pictures are taken to help caregivers see the pictures better. Tell the caregiver if you have ever had an allergic reaction to contrast dye.

How is a jaw fracture treated?

  • Medicines:

    • Acetaminophen: This medicine decreases pain. Acetaminophen is available without a doctor's order. Ask how much to take and how often to take it. Follow directions. Acetaminophen can cause liver damage if not taken correctly.

    • Ibuprofen: This medicine decreases pain and swelling. You can buy ibuprofen without a doctor's order. Ask how much to take and how often to take it. Follow directions. Ibuprofen can cause stomach bleeding and kidney damage if not taken correctly.

    • Pain medicine: You may be given a prescription medicine to decrease pain. Do not wait until the pain is severe before you take this medicine.

    • Antibiotic medicine: This medicine may be given if you have an open wound. Antibiotic medicine is used to prevent or treat an infection caused by bacteria.

  • Closed reduction: Your caregiver moves your broken jawbones back to their normal position. You will not need an incision for this procedure. Ask your caregiver for more information about closed reduction.

  • Jaw wiring: A wire may be used to hold your jaw in place and keep it from moving. This will help the bones heal the right way.

  • Surgery: You may need to have surgery if you have a bad break in your jaw.

How do I care for myself at home?

  • Apply ice: Ice helps decrease swelling and pain. Ice may also help prevent tissue damage. Use an ice pack, or put crushed ice in a plastic bag. Cover it with a towel and place it on your face for 15 to 20 minutes every hour or as directed.

  • Clean your mouth often: You will need to clean your mouth 4 to 6 times a day. Caregivers will show you how to do this. Mouth cleaning will remove pieces of food and clean your teeth. A water pik or a child-sized soft toothbrush will work well to clean your mouth.

  • Do not put pressure on your jaw: Do not push on your jaw or let anything push on it. Sleep on your back.

  • Nutrition: If your jaw is wired, you will need to eat foods that have been blended with liquids. You will have to eat these foods through a syringe or straw. If your mouth is not wired, you may need to eat only soft foods. Some examples are applesauce, bananas, cooked cereal, cottage cheese, gelatin, pudding, and yogurt. Ask your caregiver for more information about the type of foods you can eat.

What are the risks of a jaw fracture?

Treatments, such as surgery, may lead to swelling, pain, bruising, bleeding, and infection. You may get a blood clot in your leg or arm. The clot may travel to your heart or brain and cause life-threatening problems, such as a heart attack or stroke. Without treatment, you may have trouble eating or opening your mouth.

When should I contact my caregiver?

Contact your caregiver if:

  • You have a fever.

  • You have a bad headache.

  • You have numbness in your face.

  • You have jaw pain that does not go away with medicine.

  • The wires in your mouth are loose.

When should I seek immediate care?

Seek care immediately or call 911 if:

  • You have trouble breathing.

  • You suddenly feel lightheaded and short of breath.

  • You have chest pain when you take a deep breath or cough. You may cough up blood.

  • Your arm or leg feels warm, tender, and painful. It may look swollen and red.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your caregivers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

© 2014 Truven Health Analytics Inc. Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or Truven Health Analytics.

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