Jaw fractures typically happen as the result of significant facial trauma, like a car accident, a serious sports accident, a fall, or even a fight. Also called a mandibular fracture, a jaw fracture typically refers to a break in your lower jaw (the mandible) while fractures to your upper jaw (the maxilla) are sometimes referred to as midface fractures.
At Pacific Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery Center in Oakland and San Francisco, California, Brandon Kang, DDS, uses advanced techniques to repair broken jaws, restoring jaw function and repairing or replacing teeth knocked out during your injury. Here are five things he wants his patients to know about these facial fractures.
1. They’re pretty common
Any facial fracture can be emotionally traumatic, and jaw fractures are no different. However, jaw fractures aren’t uncommon — in fact, they’re the second most common fracture after broken noses and 10th most common fracture overall. That means the techniques used to correct jaw fractures have been well tested, so you can feel confident about your treatment.
2. You don’t always need surgery
Jaw surgery plays an important role in repairing many types of jaw fractures — particularly more severe fractures. But for less complex breaks, you might not need to have surgery at all.
Mild fractures where your bones are still in their proper positions can often be treated with rest and immobilization, typically using a special bandage to hold your jaw stable. Dr. Kang gives you instructions on how to care for your broken jaw, including what foods to eat, while it heals.
3. Recovery doesn’t take as long as you think
After a jaw fracture, most people recover in 4-8 weeks. Less serious fractures often require less time. If you’ve lost teeth, it can take a little longer to replace them. Typically, that process doesn’t begin until after your jawbone has healed.
4. Jaws heal well
This means that after your fracture, you can expect to recover normal function after healing. Most people benefit from gentle stretching and other therapeutic exercises to restore strength and flexibility.
If you’ve had surgery followed by a period of immobility or if you’ve had your jaw wired shut, your jaw will definitely be stiff once it’s healed. In these cases, additional physical therapy may be recommended to relax and strengthen your facial muscles. The key is to follow Dr. Kang’s directions throughout your entire recovery.
5. You’ll look the same
Many people worry that facial fractures will alter their appearance. Certainly, any facial fracture that’s not properly treated can alter the way you look. (Consider actor Owen Wilson and his twice-broken nose.)
But while jaw fractures can vary (a lot) in severity, Dr. Kang is skilled in multiple techniques to repair your jaw, restore its function, and make sure your facial contours remain the same.
Fracture vs. dislocation
Jaw fractures differ from jaw dislocations. A simple dislocation means your jaw has moved out of its normal position. In most cases, its position can be restored manually.
This isn’t something you should try yourself — you could wind up with more serious problems, including fractures or nerve damage, if you do. If you think your jaw is dislocated, Dr. Kang can restore your jaw position and function, usually following up with a special bandage to keep your jaw in place while it heals.
If you’re having unusual jaw pain or any other jaw symptoms, or if you think you may have broken or dislocated your jaw, don’t delay treatment. Book an appointment with Dr. Kang immediately, or head to the nearest emergency room.