Jerome List, MD, DDS, with Alaska Ear Nose & Throat in Anchorage, Alaska, is board-certified in otolaryngology-head and neck surgery, so treating fractures to the facial bones and mandible is an essential part of his training. The mandible is frequently injured because of its prominence on the face and lack of support to protect it.
A facial fracture refers to a broken bone anywhere on the face, such as a broken nose. Other possible injury sites include your cheekbones, eye orbits, and your upper and lower jaw. These are injuries you see commonly in car accidents, falls, and sports accidents. They can also occur in people with poor dental architecture due to a procedure or disease.
A mandible fracture is a type of facial fracture. Your mandible is the lower bone of your jaw. It connects to your face on both sides via a hinge joint. The mandible is responsible for the movement of your mouth and the support of your lower teeth. A fracture of this kind may involve at least two distinct breaks. The initial one adds stress to the remaining bone, causing a second fracture that disconnects the mandible completely from the face.
Symptoms depend on the location of the break. A nasal fracture manifests as:
A frontal bone fracture usually looks like the forehead has been pushed in. With a mandible fracture, the jaw might appear swollen and you might have problems opening or shutting your mouth.
Diagnosis and treatment depend on a number of factors. Dr. List will examine the injury site first and probably order imaging tests to get a sense of the extent of the fracture. The goal is to force the bone back into place to promote proper healing and manage any potential complications, such as infection.
Reducing the bone or putting it in the right place can require surgery. Dr. List may need to insert plates, screws or wires to stabilize the affected bones. You may also have to wear external devices to secure the bones while they heal.
Fractures of the mandible can also involve your teeth, so part of the treatment process will be to ensure proper dental alignment and possibly reconstruction of missing teeth.
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