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Broken Jaw (cont.)

When to Seek Medical Care

If after some trauma to the jaw or face, a person's teeth don't fit together correctly, if they have bleeding within the mouth, significant pain, problems speaking, or swelling, they should seek medical care.

Broken jaw is best evaluated at a hospital. Therefore, most doctors will advise the person to go to an emergency department, preferably at a large hospital that would be more likely to have specialists (oral surgeons) on call to help evaluate and treat the individual if needed. A potential but serious consequence of jaw fractures is a problem breathing due to loss of support to the tongue. Therefore, any signs of breathing problems need to be addressed immediately by calling 911.

Broken Jaw Exams and Tests

A doctor will conduct a physical exam and order X-rays if indicated. No blood tests are needed unless there are underlying health problems suspected that may have played a role in the trauma (for example, falls due to medical problems) or if you need to go to the operating room to have the fracture fixed.

  • The physical examination would consist of a general inspection of the face for obvious deformity, bruising, or swelling. The next step would begin with feeling the jawbone through the skin.
  • The doctor will check the movement of the mandible. Once the external exam is complete, the doctor will check inside the mouth. Patients will be asked to bite down, and their teeth will be assessed for alignment.
  • The doctor will check the jawbone for stability. With the straight blade test, the doctor may place a tongue blade (tongue depressor, a flat wooden stick) between the upper and lower teeth and evaluate whether the patient can hold the blade in place.
  • The best screening film is the panoramic mandibular X-ray, an X-ray that covers completely around the jawbone. This type of X-ray is not often available in smaller hospitals, so other views are substituted. If the initial X-rays are negative, a CT scan may be indicated if the doctor suspects the patient has a broken jaw but no fractures visible with initial X-rays.

Self-Care at Home for a Broken Jaw

If there is any question that an individual may have a broken jaw, they need to follow up with a doctor or a dentist specializing in oral surgery.

Ice should be applied to the jaw to help control the swelling on the way to be seen by the doctor. Sometimes patients will need a paper cup to catch the drool or to spit blood into on the trip to the doctor or emergency department. If other injuries are present, if bleeding is brisk or if swelling or other problems may compromise breathing, call 911 for emergent transport.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 11/17/2017

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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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