Jaw Fracture

You have a broken jaw, or mandible bone. It may be a minor break in the bone. Or you may have a major break, with the bone moving out of place. This causes swelling, pain, and bruising in your lower face. You may have a cut and bleeding inside your mouth. 

Most jaw fractures are stable. They can be treated by wiring the upper and lower teeth together. This keeps the fracture from moving while the bone heals. The bone should heal in about 4 to 6 weeks. But you may need surgery to put the broken bone back in place.

A blow to the face that’s strong enough to break a jaw may also cause a concussion or more serious brain injury. You should watch for the warning signs listed below.

Home care

  • If your jaw was wired shut, it’s important for you to be able to open the wires in any emergency that makes it hard to breathe. This includes vomiting, extreme coughing, or choking. You must carry a pair of small wire-cutters with you at all times. Keep them near your bed at night. Be sure you know which wires to cut in case you need to do this. If you don't know, ask your healthcare provider.

  • If a bandage was wrapped around your jaw, leave this in place, even when you are sleeping. Do this until you are seen at your next appointment. This will keep the broken bones from moving until you see the oral surgeon or ENT (ear, nose and throat surgeon).

  • If your jaw was wired shut, follow a full liquid diet. Drink liquids and blended drinks, or smoothies, through a straw.

  • If your jaw was not wired shut, you may follow a full liquid diet plus soft foods. Don’t try to open your mouth wide or chew on solid food.

  • Use an ice pack on the injured area for no more than 20 minutes at a time. Do this every 1 to 2 hours for the first 24 to 48 hours. Then use ice packs as needed to ease pain and swelling. To make an ice pack, put ice cubes in a plastic bag that seals at the top. Wrap the bag in a clean, thin towel or cloth. Never put ice or an ice pack directly on the skin.

  • You may use over-the-counter pain medicine to control pain, unless another pain medicine was prescribed. If you have chronic liver or kidney disease, stomach ulcers, or are taking blood thinners, talk with your provider before using this medicine. Use the children's liquid form of the medicine if your jaw was wired closed.

  • If you were given antibiotics to prevent an infection, take them as directed until you have finished the prescription

Special note on concussions

If you had any symptoms of a concussion today, don’t return to sports or any activity that could result in another head injury. Wait until all of your symptoms are gone and your provider says it’s OK to resume your activity. Having a second head injury before you fully recover from the first one can lead to serious brain injury.

These are symptoms of a concussion:

  • Nausea

  • Vomiting

  • Dizziness

  • Confusion

  • Headache

  • Memory loss

  • Loss of consciousness

Follow-up care

Follow up with your healthcare provider in 1 week, or as advised.

If you had X-rays or CT scans taken, you will be told of any new findings that may affect your care.

When to get medical advice

Call your healthcare provider right away if any of these occur:

  • Facial swelling or pain that gets worse

  • Fever of 100.4°F (38°C) or higher, or as directed by your healthcare provider

  • Chills

  • You can’t swallow liquids

  • Bleeding from mouth or gums

  • You had to cut the wires placed on your teeth

Call 911

Call 911 if you have:

  • Repeated vomiting

  • Severe headache or dizziness

  • Headache or dizziness that gets worse

  • Abnormal drowsiness, or you can't wake up as usual

  • Confusion or change in behavior or speech

  • Convulsion or seizure

© 2000-2022 The StayWell Company, LLC. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.
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