Injuries to the face are more common than you might expect and of all the injuries it is possible to sustain, fractures are one of the most prevalent. A fracture is a term used to describe a break in the bone. The severity of fractures can vary considerably, from hairline cracks to deep fissures that completely sever the bone in two. Many don’t even break the skin and are referred to as ‘closed fractures’.
The nasal bone is the most common facial fracture. One of the reasons for this is because the nose contains two thin bones that are easier to break than others found in the face. However, the next most common tends to fracture affecting the maxillary bones (upper jaw) and mandible (lower jaw). Fractures that affect the jaw are usually assessed and repaired by an oral surgeon, who is a specialist in these types of injuries. They will use a combination of physical assessment and x-rays to determine the type and severity of the fracture, before recommending treatment.
Accidents and injuries can occur at any time and many of them affect the face. Facial fractures have a number of different causes, including car, motorcycle, and bike accidents falls, sports injuries, industrial/work accidents, and fights. They can also occur as a result of having specific diseases, like a bone infection or a tumor within the bone.
Some types of facial fractures are very obvious, such as a visibly misshapen jaw or bone protruding through the face. However, many more are hidden beneath the surface of the skin and the fracture will cause other symptoms that patients may experience. These could include:
Discomfort or pain
Difficulty moving your jaw
Swelling and inflammation
Malocclusion (the teeth of the upper and lower jaws don’t come together properly)
Bruising and skin discoloration
If you experience any of these symptoms, particularly following an injury, it’s important that you speak to your oral surgeon as soon as possible to prevent any long-term damage or unnecessary suffering.
Exactly how facial fractures are treated depends on their location and severity. Those that affect the lower half of the face are usually best dealt with by an oral surgeon who has the skills and experience to provide the necessary care. Unless the fracture is extremely mild, it is likely that patients with jaw fractures will need reconstructive surgery. This is necessary to ensure that the bone heals in the right position so that there are no long-term effects from the injury. This may involve rewiring your jaw back into its normal position or using plates to secure the bone in place while it heals. In some cases, it may be necessary to remove small sections of bone that may have broken away from the main structure so that they don’t cause further damage or injury.
You’ll be carefully monitored while your jaw heals to make sure that it stays in the right position, and you may need to have the wires tightened as you move through the healing process. You’ll also be given advice about what you should eat and how you should take care of your teeth. You may be prescribed pain relief to take or be given instructions on taking over the counter pain relief and anti-inflammatories. It’s crucial that you follow all advice given to you by your oral surgeons as this will help ensure that you recover from your injury as quickly as possible with minimal risk of complications.