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Jaw Fracture in Adults

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Mar 5, 2023.

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 are the signs and symptoms of a jaw fracture?

  • Swelling, pain, or bruising in or around your jaw
  • Pain in front of your ear or when you move your jaw
  • Broken or missing teeth
  • Trouble pressing your teeth together
  • Trouble opening or closing your mouth

How is a jaw fracture diagnosed?

X-rays, a CT scan, or MRI of your head or jaw may show a broken bone. You may be given contrast liquid to help the broken bone show up better in the pictures. Tell the healthcare provider if you have ever had an allergic reaction to contrast liquid. Do not enter the MRI room with anything metal. Metal can cause serious injury. Tell the healthcare provider if you have any metal in or on your body.

How is a jaw fracture treated?

  • Pain medicines may be given or suggested by your healthcare provider.
  • Antibiotics may be given if you have an open wound. Antibiotic medicine is used to prevent or treat an infection caused by bacteria.
  • Jaw wiring may be used to hold your jaw in place and keep it from moving. This will help the bones heal the right way. You will be given a small pair of wire cutters to use in case of emergency. Your healthcare provider will teach you how to use the cutters, and when to use them. Keep the cutters with you at all times until the wires are removed by your healthcare provider.
  • Surgery may be needed to return the jawbone to its normal position if the fracture is severe. Pins, plates, and screws may be used to hold the jawbone together. Surgery may also be needed to correct a deformity or fix damaged tissues, such as the mouth, tongue, nerves, or blood vessels.

What can I do to manage a jaw fracture?

  • 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 before you place it on your face. Apply ice for 15 to 20 minutes every hour or as directed.
  • Eat soft or blenderized foods as directed. 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 healthcare provider for more information about the type of foods you can eat.
  • Clean your mouth 4 to 6 times each day. Healthcare providers will show you how to do this. Mouth cleaning will remove pieces of food and clean your teeth. A child-sized soft toothbrush will help you reach all parts of your teeth more easily. A water flosser will help remove bits of food and particles from between your teeth. Apply petroleum jelly to your lips to keep them from becoming chapped.
  • Do not play sports while your jaw heals. The fractured jaw may bleed, bruise easily, or break again. Ask your healthcare provider when it is safe for you to play sports again.
  • Do not put pressure on your jaw. Do not push on your jaw or let anything push on it. Sleep on your back.

When should I seek immediate care?

  • 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.

When should I contact my healthcare provider?

  • 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.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

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 healthcare providers 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.

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