Jaw Fracture In Children

What is a jaw fracture?

  • A jaw fracture is also known as a mandibular fracture. This occurs when your child's mandible (lower jawbone) is broken. The jaw is a long bone that forms the chin and holds the lower teeth. It goes up towards the ear on both sides of the face. Where it ends is called a condyle. The condyle is part of the jaw joint that helps in opening and closing the mouth.

  • In children, the jaw is still soft and more flexible than an adult. A jaw fracture may happen anywhere along the jawbone. Usually, the fractures are in at least two places of the jaw. Fractures of the condyles are the most common type of jaw fracture in children. With proper treatment, care, and follow-up, your child has a greater chance of having a full recovery.

What causes a jaw fracture?

A jaw fracture in children is caused by injury to the jaw. This usually happens when a child falls from a height and lands on his chin or jaw first. He may have fallen from the bed or stairs. Most injuries occur while the child is playing. A direct blow to the jaw may also cause a jaw fracture. This may occur during a fight, physical abuse, car accident, or in contact sports such as soccer.

What are the signs and symptoms of a jaw fracture?

Your child may have one or more of the following:

  • A cut, bruise, swelling, or bleeding on his jaw, chin, lips, or gums.

  • Deformed or crooked jaw, or a jaw moved out of its normal position.

  • Missing or loose teeth, or a feeling that his teeth do not fit together.

  • Nausea or vomiting .

  • Pain or lump on the jaw or below the ear.

  • Tingling or numbness on his chin or lower lip.

  • Trouble breathing, talking, biting, eating, swallowing, or opening the mouth.

How is a jaw fracture diagnosed?

Your child may need one or more of the following:

  • X-rays: Your child may need to have x-rays of his skull, jaw, or spine taken to check for broken bones or other problems. X-rays will tell how bad and where the fracture is. It will also help caregivers see how your child's face is healing.

  • Computerized tomography scan: This is also called a CT or CAT scan. A special x-ray machine uses a computer to take pictures of your child's head. It may be used to look at your child's jawbone and muscles. Your child may be given dye to drink or in an IV before the pictures are taken. The dye may help your child's caregiver see the pictures better. People who are allergic to iodine or shellfish (lobster, crab, or shrimp) may be allergic to some dyes. Tell your child's caregiver if he is allergic to shellfish, or has other allergies or medical conditions.

  • Magnetic resonance imaging scan: This test is also called an MRI. An MRI uses magnetic waves to take pictures of your child's head or jaw. During an MRI, pictures are taken of his bones, brain, or blood vessels. He will need to lie still during an MRI. Never enter the MRI room with an oxygen tank, watch, or any other metal objects. This may cause serious injury.

How is a jaw fracture treated?

Treatment will depend on the damage and type of fracture your child has. Most mild jaw fractures heal on their own. The younger your child is, the faster the fracture will heal without further problems. Jaw fracture is the most common fracture of the face in children that needs to be admitted in the hospital. Your child may need any of the following:

  • Aiding devices: Wires, elastic bands, splints, and bandages may be used to support your child's jaw. They may also be used to keep his jaw from moving.

  • Irrigation and debridement: This is done when the jaw fracture has an open wound. This cleans and removes objects, dirt, or dead tissues from the fracture area.

  • Medicines: Your child may be given any of the following medicines:

    • Antibiotics: This medicine is given to help prevent or treat an infection caused by bacteria.

    • Antinausea medicine: This medicine may be given to calm your child's stomach and control vomiting (throwing up).

    • Pain medicine: Your child may need medicine to take away or decrease pain. Know how often your child should get the medicine and how much. Watch for signs of pain in your child. Tell caregivers if his pain continues or gets worse. To prevent falls, stay with your child to help him get out of bed.

    • Tetanus shot: This is medicine to keep your child from getting tetanus. It is given as a shot. Your child should have a tetanus shot if he has not had one in the past 5 to 10 years. Your child's arm can get red, swollen, and sore after getting this shot.

  • Surgery: Your child may need surgery to return the jawbone to its normal position if the fracture is severe. Surgery may also be needed to correct a deformity or fix damaged tissues underneath the jaw. Pins, plates, and screws may be used to hold the jawbone together. Complications, such as an injury to the mouth, tongue, nerves, or blood vessel, may also be treated with surgery.

How can a jaw fracture be prevented?

  • Always put your child in a car safety seat in the back seat. Do not start the car until your child's seat belt is fastened. Ask your caregiver for more information about car safety seats. If your child is old enough, have him wear a seat belt properly when driving or riding in a car.

  • Do not leave your baby alone on the bed, changing table, or couch. Place him in a crib or playpen if you must leave him unattended.

  • Do not let your child dive in a shallow pool area or in water where the depth is not known.

  • Make sure your child wears proper padding and protective gear when playing sports. These include wrist guards, helmets, kneepads, and mouth guards that meet safety standards. Teach your child about following safety regulations. Ask your caregiver for more information about bicycle helmet safety.

Where can I find support or more information?

A jaw fracture is a life-changing injury for your child and your family. Accepting that your child has a jaw fracture may be hard. You, your child, and those close to you may feel sad, angry, depressed, or frightened. These are normal feelings. Talk to your child's caregivers, your family, or friends about your feelings.

You may also want to join a support group. This is a group of people who have had head injuries or jaw fractures. Contact the following for more information about jaw fracture:
  • American Academy of Family Physicians
    11400 Tomahawk Creek Parkway
    Leawood , KS 66211-2680
    Phone: 1- 913 - 906-6000
    Phone: 1- 800 - 274-2237
    Web Address: http://www.aafp.org

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your child's care. Learn about your child's health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your child's caregivers to decide what care you want for your child. 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.

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