Does a Broken Jaw Always Require Surgery?

A fractured jaw, also known as a mandibular fracture, is the breaking or cracking of the jawbone. This injury is typically the result of facial trauma, such as a fall, automobile accident, or punch to the jaw.


Pain, swelling, trouble opening the mouth, and misalignment of the jaw are symptoms you can expect from a broken jaw. If you suspect that you have a fractured jaw, you must seek medical assistance immediately. A medical expert can identify the injury and administer the proper treatment.


Types of Jaw Fractures


There are several types of jaw fractures. The treatment options vary with the type and severity of the fracture. Among the common jaw fractures are simple fractures, where the bone shows a crack but is not displaced. 

A compound fracture is where the bone breaks and sticks through the skin. Another type is a subcondylar fracture at the lower part of the jaw, near its hinge. The type of fracture will determine the course of treatment and recovery.


Nonsurgical Treatment Options


In some instances, a broken jaw can be treated without surgery. Using a jaw splint or wire to keep the jaw in place is a nonsurgical therapy option. Physical therapy is another option for enhancing jaw function and range of motion. The physician may prescribe painkillers and antibiotics to manage discomfort and prevent infection. For minor fractures, nonsurgical therapy is generally the best option.


Surgical Therapeutic Choices


In severe circumstances, surgery may be required to fix a fractured jaw. Surgical options include the insertion of plates and screws, as well as wires or a halo, to immobilize the jaw while it heals. In complex cases, a bone graft may be necessary to reconstruct the jaw.


Factors That Affect Treatment Choice


The treatment choice will depend on the type and severity of the fracture. It may also depend on the patient's overall health and medical history. Other factors affecting treatment choice include the patient's age, overall health, and the time since the injury occurred. For example, surgery may not be ideal for older patients or patients with underlying health conditions. Nonsurgical treatment options may be more appropriate.


Recovery and Rehabilitation


Recovery time and rehabilitation will vary with the type and severity of the fracture and the treatment chosen. Generally, a broken jaw takes six to eight weeks to heal. Physical therapy can help improve jaw function and range of motion, as well as help prevent stiffness and muscle weakness. Depending on the fracture type and treatment, patients may need to switch to a soft diet and avoid certain foods until the jaw fully heals.




A broken jaw is a severe injury that requires prompt medical attention. In most cases, doctors can treat a fractured jaw without surgery. In more severe cases, surgery may be necessary. It is crucial for patients to follow the treatment plan provided by their healthcare provider and to attend physical therapy to aid in the recovery process.


For more oral care tips, call Oral Surgical Associates at our Missoula or Hamilton, Montana office. Call (406) 282-8768 to schedule an appointment.

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