Straight, No Chaser: Reacting to Broken or Dislocated Jaws
Should you ever suffer the misfortune of getting hit or falling onto your jaw, would you know what to do?
Trauma to the jaw is more dangerous than you might imagine. The risk for bleeding or subsequent breathing difficulties is such that immediate medical attention is a must in the presence of either.
Once you get past bruises, there are two main considerations to jaw injuries: fractures and dislocations. Jaw fractures are simply broken jaws. A dislocated jaw is one in which the lower portion of the jaw bone (the mandible) has moved from its normal position (i.e., out of the joint connecting it to the skull). It’s not likely that you’ll know which has occurred, which is another big reason why you should be sure to get medical attention instead of attempting to do much yourself. There are significant differences in the medical management of the two conditions.
There are two main considerations I want you to learn from this post: what to do (and not to do) in the case of a jaw injury and what can happen if you don’t.
Things for you to do
- While traveling to the emergency room, you should hold the jaw and any other injured portion of the face gently in place.
- If you have access to a bandage, loosely wrap it over the top of your head and under your jaw. It needs to be rather loose in the event you need to remove it so you can vomit, which is likely after a head injury.
What you should not do
- Do not attempt to move, relocate or otherwise manipulate the jaw after an injury. Your doing so without knowing the extent of the injuries could have devastating consequences.
What can happen if you don’t get the situation addressed
- Bleeding from a facial fracture is a pretty big deal. Blood can go into the lungs and block your airway at different levels. Similarly any food that might have been in your mouth (e.g., during a car crash) can have the same outcome.
- Displacement of a broken or dislocated jaw can cause difficulty eating or speaking and can cause problems aligning the teeth over the long term.
- Depending on the mechanism, the jaw and/or other parts of the face can become infected. With the facial structures being packed so tightly in a relatively small space, many different types of complications can occur.
- Anyone with TMJ syndrome (temporomandibular joint) appreciates the pain this condition can bring. Untreated or mistreated injuries to the jaw and/or jaw joint can produce chronic pain in these areas.
Of course it shouldn’t have to be said that the better course of action is to avoid such injuries, but some of us refuse to wear helmets during sporting events, and some of us find ourselves in bar fights and motor vehicle crashes. If you can’t avoid these situations, then the next best course of action is to respond appropriately. Take care not to ruin your beautiful faces and smiles.
I welcome any questions you may have.
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