What to do about an injured jaw

What to do about an Injured Jaw

September 27, 2017

Fall sports season is upon us! Football, soccer, volleyball and lacrosse are among the most popular fall sports. Due to their physical nature, each of these sports can lead to some potentially serious injuries, including an injured jaw.  

While prevention is always the best medicine, jaw injuries can still happen. 

If you injure your jaw this season, there are some steps you can take to prevent long-term issues and facial damage. They include properly assessment and management of the jaw injury.

Consider the following when you get a jaw injury: 

Step 1:  Assess the type and severity of your jaw injury.

Your lower jaw is U-shaped and often vulnerable to injury. When a lower jaw fracture occurs, more than 50 percent of the time it will fracture in two or more places.  In addition to a fracture, the lower jaw also can become dislocated. Jaw dislocation results when the lower jaw receives a blow of sufficient force to move it out of its normal position. Normally, your jaw is connected to your skull at two joints. If you dislocate your jaw, it disconnects at one or both of these joints. 

Signs and symptoms of a jaw injury depend on the type of injury and the presence of jaw fracture and/or jaw and jaw dislocation. 

Signs of a broken jaw can include:

  • Facial bruising, swelling or numbness
  • Jaw stiffness, tenderness or pain that worsens with biting and chewing
  • A bleeding mouth
  • Damaged or loosened teeth

Signs of a dislocated jaw can include:

  • Difficulty speaking
  • Inability to close your mouth
  • Misaligned bite or teeth or a protruding jaw

Step 2 – Part 1:  Seek immediate emergency care if your teeth do not align properly when you attempt to close your mouth.

Do not attempt to treat a fractured or dislocated jaw yourself as you may unintentionally make the problem worse.  

If you’re having trouble breathing, immediately call 911.

If any delay is anticipated in receiving emergency care, do the following: 

  • Immobilize the jaw by wrapping a cloth bandage under the chin and securing it over the top of the head
  • Ensure the bandage can be easily removed in case you become nauseous
  • Apply ice to control swelling until the injury can be evaluated by a dentist or physician

If you notice bleeding from cuts inside your mouth: 

  • Gently rinse your mouth with cold water
  • Place gauze or a clean cloth over the wound and apply gentle pressure 
  • Go to the nearest hospital for emergency assistance

After receiving treatment from your dentist or physician, carefully follow all aftercare instructions. This helps ensure that your jaw heals properly.

Step 2 – Part 2:  If you have no apparent signs of a broken or dislocated jaw: 

  • Apply ice to control swelling 
  • Consider an over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medication such as Ibuprofen to help ease any pain or discomfort
  • Restrict your diet to soft foods 

If your pain and swelling don’t improve within 24-48 hours, call your dentist.

Step 3:  Prevent future sports-related jaw injuries by wearing a mouth guard

Mouth guards are a smart investment in your dental health. When worn during sports, they can help prevent tooth damage and loss as well as reduce the risk and severity of jaw injuries. 

A properly constructed mouth guard fits securely and doesn’t interfere with your ability to talk or breathe.  While you can purchase stock or boil-an-bite mouth guards at your local sporting goods store, the best choice is a custom-made mouth guard fabricated by your dentist.  

Custom-made mouth guards:

  • Provide the most protection and comfort
  • Cover all of the teeth in the jaw in which they are fitted
  • Provide an even distribution of force when the teeth come together to help cushion the jaw from blows

Some of our plans cover custom-made mouth guards. Create or sign in to your MySmile® account to view your personal coverage.

Talk to your dentist to learn more about the benefits of mouth guards and preventing jaw injuries.

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