The mandible is the lower section of the jawbone, and many injuries to this area are commonly sustained during sports due to a direct blow to the face. This sort of impact can lead to a range of different mandibular or maxillary injuries (please see our maxillary injury article for more details). The most common mandibular injuries are fractures and dislocations.
Symptoms of Mandibular Injury
Symptoms vary depending on the depth of damage and the severity of injury, but there are a number of recurring symptoms to look out for, any of which should be taken seriously. These include facial bleeding, especially from the mouth or jaw, discolouration or bruising of nearby skin, and problems with breathing, talking, opening the mouth or swallowing. Changes and deficiencies in vision can arise, such as blurriness, dots or 'spider webs' in your vision or irregular reactions to light; swelling may be present around the eye. Some people experience nausea, and seizures are also common. Walking and even standing can be made difficult by a sensation of vertigo or intense dizziness. The face might also feel strange (skin infections often strike) or seem misshapen.
Many of these symptoms can be directly caused by the blow to the face and can point to a mandibular injury. Any of these symptoms combined with a wound to the face or mouth is cause for concern. Fractures in the nose or cheekbones can also occur, as can a dislocated jaw.
Causes of Mandibular Injury
Mandibular fractures or dislocations are regularly caused by a single traumatic incident in a rough contact sport, e.g. rugby, ice hockey or football. Any hard strike to the face can potentially cause such injuries, whether this comes from a competitor, a ball, a bat or racquet. These injuries are also provoked by falls onto the face or jaw, such as falling from a height in horse riding or cycling. Additionally they can be caused through fighting or vehicular accidents.
Medical Treatment for Mandibular Injury
At the scene of the injury it is important to stop the bleeding using pressure, ensure that breathing is safe, and to make sure no damaged bones are moved. See a professional as soon as possible; a doctor will examine the symptoms and assess the components of the injury with tests like an x-ray and MRI. From there they can recommend appropriate treatment, which usually involves conservative measures like pain medication and closure of any wounds within the first day. Surgical treatment is often necessary, including an open reduction in order to fix damaged mandibular structures. Sometimes the doctor might favour a non-surgical closed reduction.
Depending on the extent of function loss and cosmetic damage, it can be crucial to see a specialist like a neurosurgeon or to talk about reconstructive surgery in severe cases.
Rehabilitation from Mandibular Injury
These sorts of injuries can take physical and emotional toll, especially when major, so the utmost care will be taken by medical professionals to carefully outline the necessities of the rehabilitation period. The time this takes varies greatly from case to case.
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