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Broken Jaw (Mandible Fracture)

Broken Jaw (Mandible Fracture) Facts

A broken jaw (or mandible fracture) is a common facial injury. Only the nose is broken more frequently. A broken jaw is the 10th most common fractured bone in the human body. Fractures (breaks in the bone) are generally the result of a direct force or trauma to the jawbone (mandible).

A dislocated jawbone means that the temporomandibular joint (where the jaw connects with the skull) is moved out of place. The jawbone may or may not be fractured, but even if there is no fracture, symptoms (listed below) may be similar to a jawbone fracture. Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) dislocation and syndrome is a topic of another article.

  • The jawbone, or mandible is the largest and main bone of the lower part of the face. Figure 1 shows the various anatomic regions of the mandible viewed from the right side. The anatomic region helps to classify the location of the fracture while the terms listed below describe the type of fracture:
    • Simple or closed: The fracture did not cause a break in the skin or mucosa or periodontal membrane. There is no connection between the jawbone and the environment.
    • Compound or open: The jawbone is open to the environment.
    • Comminuted: The jawbone region has bone splinters or crushed bone.
    • Greenstick: One section of the jawbone is fractured while the other part is bent.
    • Pathologic: fracture due to preexisting bone disease
    • Multiple: two or more distinct fractures of the jawbone
    • Impacted: One section of bone is driven by force into another section.
    • Atrophic: fracture due to bone atrophy
    • Indirect: fracture in a bone located away from the injury site
    • Complicated (complex): fracture with additional tissue or structural injury

Consequently, linking the anatomical region with the fracture type describes the fracture of the jaw (for example, a comminuted compound fracture of the body and alveolus of the mandible).

  • Men are about three times more likely than women to sustain a broken jaw. Those aged from about 20-30 years are the most common group affected. About 42% of jawbone fractures occur only on one side of the jaw.
  • A large percentage of patients with jawbone fractures had associated injuries to one or more of the following: head, neck, face, eyes, and nose.
Picture of the jawbone
Figure 1: Picture of the jawbone

Before the 19th century, most jaw fractures were treated with external wraps and healing was poor, infections were frequent, and realignment of the jawbone to facilitate normal positions of the teeth was infrequently accomplished. The normal stresses on the jawbone generated by chewing food did not aid fracture healing and many people died from poor or no adequate treatment. In the late 1880s, stabilization of the jawbone with bars, plates, and screws was begun. Jawbone stabilization has been further refined over the subsequent years to include rigid fixation with proper tooth alignment by open reduction with plate and screw fixation, although occasionally variations in the procedure may be done.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 3/1/2016

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Read What Your Physician is Reading on Medscape

Facial Trauma, Mandibular Fractures »

The first description of mandible fractures was as early as 1650 BC, when an Egyptian papyrus described the examination, diagnosis, and treatment of mandible fractures.

Read More on Medscape Reference »

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