Broken lower jawbones are painful and may affect your breathing. You need immediate medical care if you break your jaw. You can break your jaw if someone hits you or by being in a vehicle accident. You may need surgery if you have a severe fracture. Mild fractures heal on their own. Either way, you’ll be on a liquid diet until your jaw heals.
If you have a broken jaw (fractured jaw), it means something hit your lower jawbone (mandible) or your upper jawbone (maxilla) hard enough to break the bone. This article focuses on lower jawbone fractures. You can break your lower jawbone in more than one place, from the top of your lower jawbone (condyle) to the angle in your jaw that curves up and back toward your ears. A broken jaw is a medical emergency regardless of what part of your jawbone is broken.
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Broken lower jaws hurt a lot, particularly if you try move your lower jaw back and forth or up and down. You may not be able to close your mouth or open it wide. If you have a broken jaw, you also may notice that:
If you have a broken jaw, you may notice symptoms, including:
Research shows interpersonal violence — being hit in the jaw by another person — is the most common cause of broken jaws, followed by vehicle accidents. Other causes include workplace accidents and sports injuries.
A broken jaw may affect your ability to eat, speak and breathe. Left untreated, your jawbone may not heal or heal in a way that affects the way it looks or works.
Treatment depends on whether the jaw fracture was mild or more severe, meaning your lower jawbone fractured in more than one place:
One study suggests that hardware failure and infection are the most common treatment side effects. Hardware failure happens when the plates, screws and wires break or don’t work like they should.
It may take weeks for your broken jaw to heal, even if you didn’t need surgery to repair it. While your jaw heals, you may need to:
Most people break their jaws after being injured in an accident or being hit in the jaw. You may not be able to prevent accidents or situations where someone could hit you in the jaw. But there are steps you can take to reduce your risk. For example:
That depends on your situation. If you had surgery, it may be a month or more before your jawbone heals completely. Your healthcare provider may recommend you stay on a liquid diet until your jaw heals and they can remove the plates and wires holding your jawbone together. You may to talk to a nutritionist for ways to incorporate nutritious foods into a liquid diet.
Broken jaws heal very slowly. It may be weeks or months before you can resume your usual daily activity, including participating in sports.
Contact your provider if you have:
If you have a broken jaw, you may want to ask your provider these questions:
The difference is a dislocated jaw doesn’t involve a broken jawbone. It happens when your lower jawbone pulls away from your temporomandibular joints. But both dislocated and broken jawbones are medical emergencies.
You need to protect your broken jaw even while you’re asleep. The best way to do that is to sleep on your back so you don’t put pressure on your jaw.
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Most people heal from broken jaws, although a full recovery may take a few months. It’s important to follow your healthcare provider’s recommendations during recovery. For example, you may be on a liquid diet or only able to eat soft foods. You’ll need to protect your injured jaw, including taking an extended break from contact sports.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 06/12/2023.
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