One of the most common serious face injuries is due to broken bones. Fractures may involve the mandible, upper jaw, palate, cheekbones, eye sockets or combination of these bones. These injuries may affect a patient’s vision, ability to breathe, speak and swallow. Treatment often requires a hospital stay.
The principles behind treating facial fractures are the same as if you break a leg or an arm. The parts of the bone must be aligned (reduced) and held into position for long enough to allow them to heal. This can take six weeks or more, depending on the patient’s age and the complexity of the fracture.
The repositioning technique used by the oral and maxillofacial surgeon will depend on the location and seriousness of the fracture. If the upper or lower jaw is broken, for example, metal devices are used to keep the teeth in place and cork bands or cables are used to keep the jaws together. Patients with few or no teeth may need prostheses or splints built specially to align and set the fracture. Often patients with facial fractures have other medical problems as well. The oral and maxillofacial surgeon is qualified to coordinate their treatment with that of other doctors.
During the healing process, when the jaws are wired together, the oral and maxillofacial surgeon will prescribe a liquid diet that will help the healing process while keeping the patient healthy. After the patient has been discharged from the hospital, the doctor will give them instructions to continue with facial and oral care.
With complex or extensive maxillofacial fractures, multiple incisions are made to expose the bones and a combination of mesh or coating techniques may be necessary.