It can be difficult to tell the difference between a broken and dislocated jaw. They’re both serious injuries that require medical attention — your jaw helps you eat, breathe and talk. The sooner you get the right treatment, the less likely you’ll have long-term complications such as repeated injuries to your jaw joint.
What Caused the Injury?
Jaw injuries are usually caused by trauma from an accident or assault. Contact sports can also cause jaw injuries, or you can injure your jaw simply by falling.
Your jaw can dislocate even without severe facial trauma. Sometimes simply opening your mouth wide at an odd angle can cause your joint to pop out of position.
You will want to tell your doctor how the injury occurred — it will give them insight as they assess your symptoms and make a diagnosis.
What Are Your Symptoms?
There are many similarities between the symptoms of a broken and dislocated jaw. In both cases, you will feel extreme pain when you try to open your mouth. You may not even be able to move your jaw at all. Your jaw may protrude at an odd angle or move to one side when you open it.
While only an X-ray will be able to fully determine whether it’s broken or dislocated, certain symptoms can indicate one condition or the other.
- Fractured jaw symptoms include bruising on the face, swelling, loose or damaged teeth, a lump on the cheek and facial numbness.
- Dislocated jaw symptoms include a locked jaw, teeth that don’t line up correctly and the inability to close your mouth.
If you have any of these symptoms, there is no time to waste — go to the nearest emergency room. A broken or dislocated jaw a dangerous injury because it can interfere with breathing.
Hold the jaw securely in place with your hands or with a bandage on your way to the hospital. Don’t tighten the bandage too tightly around your face, however, just in case you need to vomit. Don’t try to correct the jaw’s position on your own either — let a doctor handle that.
What’s the Right Treatment?
A dislocation must be reset by a trained physician. Some severe fractures must be surgically set in order for them to heal properly. If you suffer from repeated dislocations, you may also need surgery to correct a deficiency in the temporomandibular joint.
Depending on the extent of the injury, you may need up to six weeks to fully recover. If you must have surgery, your jaw may be immobilized by being wired shut, which forces you to stick to a liquid diet while you heal.
These types of injuries are serious. Whether you have a fractured or dislocated jaw, trust a team you know has the skill and experience to help you recover fast — depend on Northeast Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery.