The jaw is a complex bone designed to withstand significant force. Most fractured jaws result from an accident—often from sports injuries or car accidents—and can take considerable time to heal. Here’s what you need to know.
What are the common causes of a fractured jaw?
Common causes include:
Motor vehicle accidents. A car crash is the most common cause of a broken jaw.
Falls. Falling down stairs or off a ladder often causes facial fractures, including fractured jaws. Other causes include diving into shallow water and falling from heights such as buildings or ladders.
Sports injuries. Contact sports such as football and hockey can cause facial fractures, including broken jaws.
Assaults and domestic violence. Assaults are another significant cause of facial fractures. Domestic violence often results in facial trauma, which includes fractured jaws.
What are the symptoms of a fractured jaw?
A fractured jaw can be extremely painful and may make eating, drinking, and speaking difficult.
- Pain when biting down on food or chewing
- Bruising around the chin and cheeks
- Swelling around the chin and cheeks
- Difficulty opening the mouth
- Difficulty speaking clearly
- Numbness in the chin or lips
If a fractured jaw isn't treated properly, you may experience complications such as infection, nerve damage, and permanent damage to your facial structures.
If you suspect you have a fractured jaw, it's essential to seek immediate treatment because the bone may be displaced and require repositioning to heal correctly.
How Is a broken jaw treated?
Treatment for a broken jaw will depend on the fracture type and the damage to your jawbone and surrounding soft tissue. In some cases, a fractured jaw can be treated with a splint or cast that keeps the bones in place while they heal. Your doctor may need to insert pins or plates into your bone to stabilize it during healing.
If your jawbone was fractured in multiple places, your oral surgeon might use wires, pins, or plates to align the bones. In some cases, oral surgeons will wait until the swelling goes down, allowing them to see what needs repair during surgery. You may also need dental treatment if you've sustained damage to your teeth.
How long does a fractured jaw take to heal?
A fracture can be classified as mild (if there are no signs of displacement), moderate (if there is a displacement of bone fragments), or severe (if there is significant displacement).
The jaw can take up to six months to heal after being broken because of several factors, including the severity of the injury, age, and overall health.
The approximate healing times for a broken jaw are as follows:
- Conservative treatment (cold packs, rest, and medication), no surgery: 4-6 weeks.
- Surgical wiring or plates: 3-6 months.
In many cases, surgery isn't required. If it is, the recovery time will take significantly longer.
How can I manage discomfort and speed up recovery?
For the best outcome, following your oral surgeon's instructions after treatment is essential. Doing so will help ensure you heal fully and as quickly as possible with minimal discomfort.
While you can't do anything about the healing process, there are several things you can do to help speed up recovery and make it less painful.
Eat soft foods. While recovering from a fractured jaw, eat only soft foods that are easy to chew. Avoid crunchy foods and hard-to-chew items like raw vegetables or meat.
Drink plenty of water. Adequate hydration can help the body heal.
Try an over-the-counter pain reliever. Taking an over-the-counter pain reliever, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil), may help relieve discomfort and reduce swelling.
Don't smoke. Smoking increases your risk of infection and slows healing time.
Rio Grande Oral Surgery Treats Facial Trauma
Understanding how long it takes to heal from a fractured jaw will help you set realistic expectations and better manage your recovery.