There are people specially trained to deal with injuries to the mouth, face, and jaw: Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons. Their training and experience uniquely qualify them to deal with these types of injuries. These can include a wide range of injuries, from facial cuts and lacerations to more serious problems, like broken teeth and fractured facial bones.
THE SERIOUS SIDE OF 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, eye socket, and combinations of these bones. These injuries can affect sight, and the ability to breathe, speak and swallow. Treatment often requires hospitalization.
The principles of treatment for facial fractures are the same as for a broken arm or leg. The parts of the bone must be lined up (reduced) and held in position long enough to permit them time to heal. This may require six or more weeks depending on the patient’s age and the fracture’s complexity.
When fractures are extensive, multiple incisions to expose the bones and a combination of wiring or plating techniques may be needed. The repositioning technique used by the oral and maxillofacial surgeon depends upon the location and severity of the fracture. In the case of a break of the upper or lower jaw, 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.
What’s more, many individuals who sustain facial fractures have other medical problems and the Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeon is trained to coordinate his or her treatment with that of other doctors.
During the healing period, when jaws are wired shut, the oral and maxillofacial surgeon prescribes a nutritional diet. This helps the injury heal as quickly as possible by keeping the patient in good health. After discharge from the hospital, the doctor gives the patient instructions dealing with continued facial and oral care.
DON’T TREAT ANY FACIAL INJURY LIGHTLY
Of course, not all facial injuries are extensive. The thing you should remember, though, is that they are all complex. Even in the case of a moderately cut lip, the expertise of the oral and maxillofacial surgeon is indispensable. If sutures are needed, placement must be precise to bring about the desired cosmetic result. So a good rule of thumb is that you shouldn’t take any facial injury lightly. Not only that, but facial injuries are in a critical area of the body. After all, the functions of breathing, eating, speaking and seeing are located there.
PREVENTION-THE BEST POLICY
Because avoiding injury is always best, the oral and maxillofacial surgeon is a staunch advocate of the use of automobile seat belts. For the same reason, the use of protective mouth guards, and appropriate masks and helmets for athletes is recommended. The Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeon maintains a constant vigilance, warning the public of hidden everyday hazards to their health.
Now, as always, your Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeon’s concern is not just with oral health, but extends to the total health of the individual.
Portions of the above information provided as a courtesy by:
American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons
9700 W. Bryn Mawr Avenue
Rosemont, Illinois 60018-5701
847/678-6200 Fax: 847/678-6286