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Jaw injury: signs, symptoms, causes and treatment

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Jaw injury refers to any type of damage to the jaw caused due to an injury. Common injuries to the jaw include jaw dislocations, dental injury, jaw contusion and jaw fracture. Jaw injuries are commonly caused by sports injuries, motor vehicle actions, altercations and fist fights.

A person with a jaw injury may experience symptoms depending on the type of jaw injury. Symptoms of a jaw dislocation or jaw fracture may include jaw pain, facial swelling, jaw tenderness, jaw swelling, difficulty opening the mouth fully, difficulty swallowing, difficulty eating or speaking, facial numbness, chipped teeth, dental pain and loss of teeth. A jaw dislocation or fracture can be identified with the improper alignment of the teeth. This is jaw paincalled malocclusion.

Treatment for jaw injury depends on the severity and type of jaw injury. Treatment for jaw injuries includes cold compresses, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication for pain, narcotic pain medication, and special soft or liquid diets. Jaw fractures may require surgery.

Important Disclaimer: the material posted on this page on jaw injuries, signs, symptoms, causes and treatment is for educational purposes only. To learn how to manage and recognize jaw, head and neck injuries sign up for first aid and CPR training with a St Mark James provider.

Causes

Causes of jaw injury include:

  • Automobile accidents
  • Altercation
  • Sports injuries
  • Falls

Types of jaw injuries include:

  • Jaw fracture
  • Jaw dislocation
  • Facial injury
  • Facial fracture
  • Dental injury

Signs and symptoms

Signs and symptoms of jaw injury include:

  • Jaw pain
  • Jaw swelling
  • Jaw tenderness
  • Facial swelling
  • Difficult opening the jaw
  • Facial bruising
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Difficulty eating
  • Dental pain
  • Dental injury
  • Dental fracture
  • Tooth avulsion – loss of tooth
  • Malocclusion – improper alignment of the upper and lower teeth
  • Trismus – inability to open the mouth completely

Treatment

Treatment for jaw injury includes:

  • Cold compresses – apply an ice pack for 20 minutes for at least thrice a day
  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medication
  • Narcotic pain medication for short term use only
  • Lid diet or soft diet
  • Surgery for jaw fracture

Home care treatment

Home care treatment for jaw include may include:

  • Perform wound care as directed by your health care provider
  • Gently clean the skin using soap and water and apply an antibiotic ointment after patting dry. Avoid scrubbing the skin to prevent further injury
  • Avoid trying to open to the jaw completely
  • Apply cold compresses to reduce swelling and pain – apply for 20-30 minutes using an ice pack wrapped in a towel. Avoid applying ice directly to the skin
  • Keep the head of your bed elevated to reduce swelling
  • Take acetaminophen or ibuprofen for pain
  • Take medication as directed by your doctor

Liquid diet for jaw injury

For a person with a jaw injury chewing may be nearly impossible due to the sharp pain, therefore, your health care provider may recommend a liquid diet or a soft diet containing the following foods:

  • Cream of wheat
  • Honey
  • Fruit juices
  • Yogurt
  • Jelly
  • Milk and milkshakes
  • Ice cream
  • Nutritional supplement drinks
  • Pureed meals
  • Pureed fruits and vegetables
  • Soaps without solid materials
  • Syrups
  • Vegetable juices
  • Pudding

Learn More

To learn more about head, neck and jaw injuries and how to manage them sign up for first aid and CPR training programs with St Mark James.

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