Facial Trauma

Maxillofacial injuries, also referred to as facial trauma, encompass any injury to the mouth, face and jaw. Most maxillofacial injuries are caused by a sports mishap, motor vehicle accident, on-the-job accident, act of violence or an accident in the home.

Treating Facial Injury

One of the most common types of serious injury to the face occurs when bones are broken. Fractures can involve the lower jaw, upper jaw, palate, cheekbones, nasal bones, eye sockets and combinations of these bones. These injuries can affect sight as well as the ability to breathe, speak and swallow. Treatment of these injuries often requires hospitalization.

The principles for treating facial fractures are the same as for a broken arm or leg. The parts of the bone must be aligned (reduced) and held in position long enough to permit them time to heal. This may require six weeks or more depending on the patient’s age and medical conditions in addition to the fracture’s complexity.

When maxillofacial fractures are complex or extensive, multiple incisions to expose the bones and a combination of wiring or plating techniques may be needed. The repositioning technique used depends upon the location and severity of the fracture. In the case of a break in the upper or lower jaw, for example, metal braces may be fastened to the teeth and rubber bands or wires used to hold the jaws together. Patients with few or no teeth may need dentures or specially constructed splints to align and secure the fracture.

During the healing period when jaws are wired shut, a nutritional liquid or pureed diet may be prescribed. This will help the healing process by providing the patient with the nutrients necessary for wound repair. After discharge from the hospital, the patient is given instructions on continued facial and oral care.

Do not treat any facial injury lightly!

While not all facial injuries are extensive, they are all complex since they affect an area of the body that is critical to breathing, eating, speaking and seeing. Even in the case of a moderately cut lip, the expertise of an oral and maxillofacial surgeon is indispensable. If sutures are needed, placement must be precise to bring about the desired functional and cosmetic result.