What is broken jaw?

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Broken jaw: Overview

A broken jaw is a break, or fracture, of the jaw bone. In some cases, a doctor may wire the upper and lower teeth together to hold the jaw in place. In other cases, surgery is needed.

If your jaw has been wired, you probably will need to get your food through liquids in a straw. Your jaw may be wired for about 6 weeks.

You need to be careful to avoid hurting your jaw again while you are healing.

You heal best when you take good care of yourself. Eat a variety of healthy foods, and don't smoke.

How can you care for yourself when you have a broken jaw?

  • Be safe with medicines. Read and follow all instructions on the label.
    • If you are not taking a prescription pain medicine, ask your doctor if you can take an over-the-counter medicine.
    • If the doctor gave you a prescription medicine for pain, take it as prescribed.
    • Store your prescription pain medicines where no one else can get to them. When you are done using them, dispose of them quickly and safely. Your local pharmacy or hospital may have a drop-off site.
  • If your doctor prescribed antibiotics, take them as directed. Do not stop taking them just because you feel better. You need to take the full course of antibiotics.
  • Keep a small pair of wire cutters with you for emergencies. Use them to cut the wires if you choke, vomit, or have trouble breathing.
  • Put ice or a cold pack on your jaw for 10 to 20 minutes at a time. Try to do this every 1 to 2 hours for the next 3 days (when you are awake). Put a thin cloth between the ice and your skin.
  • Follow the advice of your doctor about what you can eat. You may be able to chew a soft diet, or you may have to drink your meals through a straw.
  • Avoid any activity that might reinjure your jaw. Do exercise that will not risk a fall, such as riding a stationary bike.

Broken jaw: When to call

Call 911 anytime you think you may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • You have trouble breathing.

Call your doctor now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • You have signs of infection, such as:
    • Increased pain, swelling, warmth, or redness.
    • Red streaks leading from the area.
    • Pus draining from the area.
    • A fever.
  • You have trouble swallowing.
  • Your mouth is bleeding.
  • You have new or worse pain.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor if:

  • You do not get better as expected.

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The content above contains general health information provided by Healthwise, Incorporated, and reviewed by its medical experts. This content should not replace the advice of your healthcare provider. Not all treatments or services described are offered as services by us. For recommended treatments, please consult your healthcare provider.