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Jaw Fracture in Children

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Oct 3, 2022.

What is a jaw fracture?

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

What are the signs and symptoms of a jaw fracture?

  • Bruising or swelling on the jaw, chin, lips, or gums
  • Misshapen or crooked jaw, or jaw that has moved out of its normal position
  • Missing or loose teeth
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Pain or lump on the part of the jaw that is located below the ear
  • Tingling or numbness on the chin or lower lip
  • Trouble breathing, talking, eating, or opening his or her mouth

How is a jaw fracture diagnosed?

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

How is a jaw fracture treated?

Your child's treatment will depend on the damage and the type of fracture. Most mild jaw fractures in children heal on their own. Your child may need any of the following:

  • Pain medicine may be given or suggested by your child's healthcare provider.
  • Antibiotics may be given to help treat or prevent a bacterial infection if the bone broke through your child's skin.
  • Jaw wiring may be used to hold your child's 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 child's healthcare provider will teach you how to use the cutters, and when to use them. Keep the cutters available at all times until the wires are removed by your child's 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 help manage my child's 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 child's face. Apply ice for 15 to 20 minutes every hour or as directed.
  • Your child's healthcare provider will tell you what to feed your child. If your child's jaw is wired, he or she will need to eat foods that have been blended with liquids. Some examples of liquids you can use are milk, fruit juice, and vegetable juice. The liquids should not have chunks or pulp. Your child will have to eat these foods through a syringe or straw. If your child's mouth is not wired, he or she may need to eat only soft foods. Some examples are applesauce, bananas, cooked cereal, cottage cheese, gelatin, pudding, and yogurt.
  • Help your child clean his or her mouth 4 to 6 times each day. Use a small, soft toothbrush. A water flosser can also help remove food and particles from between the teeth. Apply petroleum jelly to your child's lips to keep them from becoming chapped. Ask your child's healthcare provider for information about mouth care.
  • Your child may need more rest while he or she heals. Quiet play will keep your child busy and lower the risk for more injury. Have your child read or draw quietly. Ask your child's healthcare provider how much rest your child needs and when he or she can return to regular activities.
  • Do not let your child play sports while the jaw heals. The fractured jaw may bleed, bruise easily, or break again. Ask your child's healthcare provider when it is safe for your child to play sports again.
  • Tell your child not to put pressure on the healing jaw. He or she should not push on the jaw or let anything push on it. Have your child sleep on his or her back.

When should I seek immediate care?

  • Your child is vomiting and cannot keep any liquids down.
  • Your child has increased pain, even after he or she takes medicine.
  • Your child has problems breathing, talking, drinking, eating, or swallowing.
  • Your child's splint breaks or gets damaged, or becomes soaked with blood.

When should I contact my child's healthcare provider?

  • Your child has a fever.
  • The wires or splints in your child's mouth are loose.
  • You have questions or concerns about your child's condition or care.

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 healthcare providers 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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