Dentists handle many forms of dental emergencies. The most common dental emergencies include chipped or broken teeth, severe toothaches, knocked-out teeth, and broken or fractured jaws. You might require immediate dental care if you have something lodged between your teeth. After suffering a broken jaw, seeking immediate dental care gives the dentist ample time to treat the injury and prevent further complications. Even if emergency dental trips are often unplanned, they go a long way in enhancing your dental well-being. If you have a dental emergency and require a reliable emergency dentist, Encino Dentist can assist.

How to Tell that You Have a Broken Jaw

How can you tell that you have a broken jaw? What are some of the common symptoms of a broken jaw? It is relatively easy to diagnose a broken jaw before you even visit your dentist. Most people suffer broken jaws when they have been in some form of accident or any other incident likely to cause a fracture or a broken jaw. If you think that you have a broken jaw, you should seek immediate dental care to prevent the situation from getting out of hand. A fractured jaw is a severe medical condition, and you should not procrastinate or delay before seeking medical care. Immediate dental treatment will alleviate pain and prevent the jaw from worsening.

What a Broken Jaw Entails

A broken or a fractured jaw refers to injuries on one or both joints connecting the lower jawbone to the skull. These joints are commonly referred to as temporomandibular joints, typically abbreviated as TMJ joints. The joint could crack, break, or become unhinged from your skull. If the joint is unhinged from the skull, you have a dislocated jaw. A broken or fractured jaw could interfere with your proper eating and breathing. It is essential to treat a broken jaw as a dental emergency to accelerate the healing process.

The jaw comprises two major cooperative bones. The lower jaw is known as the mandible, while the upper jaw is known as the maxillary. The mandible is responsible for most of the mouth's mechanics, including closing or opening the mouth and allowing you to chew food. A broken jaw is among the most common types of facial fractures alongside broken noses and cheekbones.

Your jaw plays a significant role in helping you eat, breathe, and speak. Any form of jaw fracture could inhibit these crucial functions. It's essential to seek immediate dental attention if you experience any form of pain in the jaw. Your emergency dentist will determine the exact cause of the pain. Other than fractures and injuries, other leading causes of jaw pain include periodontal disease, TMJ, teeth grinding, and sinus issues.

The Leading Causes of Broken Jaws

There are several causes of a broken jaw. Some of the common ways you can suffer a broken jaw include:

  • An accident resulting from a fall is prevalent in children prone to frequent falls — Falls are also common among adults. An adult is more likely to fall due to old age or fainting. Hitting your jaw after a fall could result in a broken jaw.

  • Involvement in an accident is also a leading cause of broken jaws — If you are involved in an accident while driving, you might hit your jaw against the vehicle's dashboard, which could result in a broken jaw. The impact of a solid object on the jaw, like when the dashboard encounters your jaw, could result in a broken jaw.

  • Sports injuries are also leading causes of broken jaws — You might hit your jaw while playing a contact sport like rugby or football. You may suffer a broken jaw if you fall to the ground during a contact sport or if you take a severe trauma with your jaw during the sport.

  • You could also suffer a broken jaw if you are involved in a fight and take a hard slap or a punch to the jaw.

  • Industrial accidents and workplace injuries are also leading causes of broken jaws.

Broken vs. Dislocated Jaw

It's essential to keep in mind that a dislocated jaw could be just as severe as a broken jaw. It's not always easy to tell the difference between a broken and a dislocated jaw. A dislocated jaw usually occurs when the mandible moves from the usual alignment on one or both of the TMJ joints where the jaw connects to the skull. After visiting a dentist, they will examine you and determine whether you have suffered a broken or a fractured jaw. Some of the leading symptoms of a broken jaw are:

  • Severe or extreme pain in the jaw or the mandibular joints

  • Straining or being unable to open your jaws wide

  • Difficulty in swallowing or talking

  • Swelling, bruising, and tenderness along the jawbone

  • Your jaw feeling out of alignment or off — In some instances, it is even possible to see or notice the jaw misalignment.

  • Misaligned or missing teeth

  • A bleeding mouth

  • Jaw stiffness

The most apparent and immediate symptoms of a broken jaw are pain, bleeding, and swelling. Your whole face could swell, making your jaw painful and stiff. Excessive bleeding in the mouth could occur and cause breathing problems in some individuals. The blood flow from the injured jaws could block your airways. Depending on the injury's extent, you may experience a limited ability to move your jaw or a total inability to move the jaw.

Breaking the jawbone could cause your face to have a lumpy appearance. Therefore, it is common to notice other abnormalities with your face's shape after suffering a broken jaw. The injury could also cause you to lose some of the teeth or make your teeth weak.

The symptoms of a dislocated jaw could be different from those of a broken jaw. Just like with a broken jaw, a dislocated jaw will cause you pain, and the pain tends to get worse whenever you move your body or your mouth. Some of the typical symptoms of a broken jaw are:

  • You may have an overbite, whereby the jaw appears to jut out too much.

  • You may realize that your teeth do not line up properly the way they should, and your bite might feel strange.

  • The abnormal bite could make it challenging to close your mouth properly, and this often leads to drooling.

  • You may have difficulties speaking.

  • You may notice that you have protruding teeth.

Before You See a Dentist

Is there anything that you can do after suffering a broken jaw before you visit a dentist? Yes, you can take several steps to ensure that you keep the jaw stable and reduce the swelling:

  • You should wrap a towel around your chin or the jaw to stabilize the jaw. Ensure that you tie the towel and secure it to the top of your head.

  • You may also cold compress or apply light pressure at the site of the fracture. This will help you with the localized pain and help reduce the swelling.

However, even as you take these steps to reduce the jaw injury impacts, you should contact your dental clinic and inform them that you have a broken jaw, even as you visit the dentist.

Treatment for a Broken Jaw

You should treat a broken jaw as an emergency due to a broken jaw's potential consequences, including limited breathing and bleeding. You should support your jaw as you await treatment to ensure that you maintain the airways open and provide the needed stabilization. Surgery might be necessary for a severe jaw break, primarily if you have displaced portions of the bone. In most cases, the jaw will self-heal if the fracture is clean. The dentist may have to immobilize the jaw to allow self-healing to take place.

The ideal method of treatment will vary depending on the type of fracture. If you have suffered a minor jaw break, the dentist may only have to bandage your chin and head to ensure that you do not open the jaw too wide. The dentist may also recommend pain medication and anti-inflammatory medication to relieve any pain and discomfort you are likely to experience during the recovery process.

If you have suffered an extensive jaw fracture, the dentist may have to wire your jaw to keep it closed and preserve your bit. The typical recovery period for a fractured jaw is around six weeks. During the recovery period, the dentist may advise you to keep the opening of your mouth minimal. If the jaw break is severe, you might have to change your diet to avoid straining the jaw during the recovery period.

If you have just suffered a jaw dislocation, the dentist may reset the jaw to its proper place using their thumbs alongside desensitizing items and muscle relaxants. The dentist may stabilize your jaw using bandages, but surgery might be important to facilitate a full recovery in some cases.

Recovering From a Broken Jaw

You might have to adhere to a soft diet as you recover from a broken or a dislocated jaw. The dentist may advise you to avoid crunchy and chewy foods if you have only suffered a minor broken jaw that will heal independently. Items like law produce, meats, and crunchy snack foods could strain the jaw and cause pain and discomfort. A soft diet may consist of several meals like:

  • Well-cooked rice

  • Well-cooked pasta

  • Canned meat

  • Canned fruits

  • Meat

You will have to make drastic diet changes if you have a wired jaw. With a wired jaw, you will not be able to open or close your mouth. Therefore, you will probably get your daily portion of minerals and vitamins through a straw. It can be a concern to get the recommended amount of calories while recovering from a jaw injury. You should resort to pureed foods prepared with ingredients like cream and whole milk to boost your calorie intake when needed. You can organize for a supply of proteins from pureeing well-cooked meats, vegetables, and fruits.

Eating healthy while you have a wired jaw means that you eat more frequently than you used to. For instance, instead of eating three main meals in a day, you could eat smaller but frequent portions. If you have to feed through a straw, you should limit your intake of drinks with no calories and focus more on milk and juices. Adopting the right diet during your recovery period will help you sustain your weight even while you are on a restrictive diet.

After suffering a broken jaw, your teeth might feel more sensitive than usual. Therefore, you should eat lukewarm foods and avoid extreme temperatures on either side of the spectrum. You should consider choosing baby food to accommodate your need for vitamins.

For most people who suffer a broken jaw, the recovery outlook is quite good. The recovery from a dislocation or a non-surgical jaw fracture could take between 6 and 8 weeks. However, recovery from a surgical fracture could take up to several months. Most people recover from a broken jaw successfully and do not experience long-term effects. The healing process could be longer if the jaw does not receive sufficient rest. Therefore, you should avoid straining the jaw during recovery.

People who have suffered a broken jaw are at a higher risk of developing TMJ disorder. Therefore, even after recovering from a broken jaw, you are likely to have recurring pain in your joints. People who have suffered a broken or dislocated jaw are also at a higher risk of suffering a future dislocation. Therefore, it is essential to undergo regular dental reviews after recovering from a broken jaw.

Find an Emergency Dentist Near Me

If you know or suspect that you have suffered a broken jaw, you will want to see an emergency dentist as soon as possible. It is essential to seek medical attention even if you suspect that the breakage is minor. Seeking timely treatment will help prevent excessive swelling or bruising. At Encino Dentist, we can handle all your emergency dental needs. Contact us at 818-650-0429 and speak to one of our dentists.