Symptoms and Signs of Facial Fracture

Medical Author: John P. Cunha, DO, FACOEP
Medically Reviewed on 5/31/2022

Doctor's Notes on Facial Fracture

A facial fracture refers to any injury that results in a bone or bones of the face being broken. Common causes of facial fractures can include car accidents, sports injuries, falls, and assaults. 

Symptoms of facial fracture that are common to any fractured bone include

  • pain,
  • swelling, and
  • bruising.

Other symptoms of facial fracture are specific to the part of the face that is injured. Symptoms of a broken nose include

  • swelling,
  • tenderness,
  • deformity, and
  • nosebleeds.

Fracture of the bones inside the nose may cause the brain to connect with the outside environment and symptoms may include persistent nosebleeds or a clear nasal discharge. Symptoms of a broken jaw include

  • jaw pain,
  • tenderness,
  • inability to bring the teeth together properly, and
  • bruising under the tongue.

Symptoms of midface fracture include

  • the inability to bring the teeth together properly,
  • visual problems,
  • clear nasal discharge,
  • bruising around the eyes, and
  • in severe cases, difficulty breathing.

Symptoms of cheekbone fracture include

  • the flatness of the cheek,
  • altered sensation underneath the eye on the affected side,
  • visual complaints,
  • pain with jaw movement, and
  • blood in the side of the eye on the affected side.

Symptoms of eye socket fracture include

  • sunken eye,
  • altered sensation beneath the affected eye, and
  • double vision.

Symptoms of temporomandibular joint (TMJ) dislocation include jaw deviation and an inability to close the mouth.

What is the Treatment for a Facial Fracture?

Facial fracture treatment depends on the location of the facial fracture, the severity of the injury, and other complicating factors such as open wounds or injuries to the brain or eyes. 

Facial fractures are treated by specially trained surgeons called a maxillo-facial surgeon or an otolaryngologist (Ear, Nose, and Throat doctor, or ENT).

The usual treatment for facial fractures involves ensuring the fractured bones are lined up so they will heal properly. This can be done by a “reduction” of the fracture, either by external manipulation of the fractured bone pieces or by surgical repair, which is called “fixation.”

The most common fracture of the face, a nasal bone fracture, is often treated conservatively and rarely needs surgery. When surgery is needed, it is often done after the swelling to the nose and face has gone down.

Facial fractures that impinge on nerves or that impede breathing or swallowing are generally treated with surgery. Multiple fractures to several bones in the same area of the face may require extensive surgical reconstruction. Jaw (mandible) fractures usually require surgery to realign the teeth and minimize the risk of infections from mouth bacteria.

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Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.