Bone fractures are prevalent injuries in the case of an accident, like a vehicle accident, a fall, or trauma. Jaw fractures, or fractures of the temporomandibular joint, are common. For example, you can sustain an injury through or near your TMJ. These fractures can occur on several occasions, for example, when you suffer trauma to your face from a direct blow. That could damage the TMJ and/or the muscles that enable you to move your jaw.

Luckily, jaw fractures heal after treatment and with time. However, you could experience pain and difficulties moving or opening your jaw after the fractured bones heal. We recommend our trained and skilled physical therapists at Suarez Physical Therapy to help relieve your pain and reinstate the function and movement of the jaw. Our Las Vegas team comprises movement experts who use patient education, hands-on specialized care, and prescribed exercise to improve your quality of life.

Jaw or TMJ Fractures

The jaw joint, popularly known as the temporomandibular joint, is crucial as it facilitates jaw movements. You depend on this movement to open and close your mouth freely when eating, speaking, laughing, or even yawning. The TMJ enables your jaw to perform various exercises, including translational and rotational. The function of your mouth and jaws is also impacted when they are affected.

A fracture in the TMJ happens when the temporal or mandible joint (the joint that connects the jaw bones to your skull) breaks through or near the TMJ. Like all your other bones, the temporal and jawbones (or mandibles) can quickly fracture in trauma cases. In most cases, jaw fractures occur when you suffer direct physical trauma to your face. The jaw breaks along its condyles (rounded projections on your bone). Fractures could also occur following a joint dislocation.

Jaw fractures are most commonly caused by assaults, vehicle accidents, falls, and sports injuries. The most affected people include men aged between 20 and 29. Men are also more likely to sustain jaw fractures than women in the same age bracket.

Other than impacting your jaw movement and mouth function, jaw fractures can also result in infections and jaw osteomyelitis. If you have suffered a jaw fracture due to a strong blow to your head, you are also likely to have sustained a concussion.

The Symptoms of a Jaw Fracture

It is difficult to tell that you have suffered a jaw fracture right after an accident. However, there will be factors that will compel you to visit a physician’s office. Here are some of the signs that you could have a jaw fracture:

There could be:

  • Pain in the jaw or one side of your face.
  • Bruising or swelling in the affected area.
  • Difficulties performing basic mouth movements, including opening the mouth to talk or eat.
  • Jaw fatigue.
  • Dizziness.
  • Ringing in the ears.
  • A broken or lost tooth.
  • Headache.
  • Neck pain.
  • A popping sound in the jaw.
  • Changes in the way your teeth come together when you bite down.
  • Locking jaws.
  • You could feel a bump in the jaw joint or bone with a finger.

Note that experiencing any or more of these signs does not necessarily mean that you have a jaw fracture. You need to undergo a physical and diagnostic examination for a proper diagnosis.

How Doctors Diagnose Jaw Fractures

If you suffered trauma to the face and experienced pain or any of the symptoms of a fractured jaw, it is advisable to visit an emergency clinic or a hospital near you. An emergency medical physician will listen to what happened and conduct a physical exam on the affected jaw to establish the problem. Additionally, they could order an X-ray exam or CT scan to obtain a better view of the jaw bones and the surrounding tissues. The diagnostic procedures enable the physician to establish the nature of the fracture, its location, and its extent. That way, the doctor can recommend the best treatment.

Sometimes, you could experience pain and other symptoms of a fractured jaw because of a dislocated jaw. After thoroughly examining the affected part, the physician can tell if your jaw is dislocated. Through their skills and experience, the physician can return the jaw to its proper position.

Jaw fractures differ in degree, extent, and nature. A less severe jaw fracture occurs when the bones are still in position, but a minor fracture line indicates that the bones are broken. A severe jaw fracture has a more extensive fracture line. The fracture could partially displace some sections of the bone. The fracture could also cause a bone dislocation.

Some jaw fractures are extreme, whereby segments of the affected one are fragmented or displaced. A severe fracture will cause a severe alteration of your bone structure.

Doctors have different remedies for the various types of jaw fractures. Here are some of the solutions to TMJ fractures that could enable you to heal:

Resting a Less-Severe Jaw Fracture

A physician can recommend resting the affected jaw in the case of a less severe fracture. When resting the jaw, you could practice the following:

  • Switching to a liquid diet or only eating soft foods until the jaw heals completely.
  • Minimizing your use of the affected jaw by speaking or chewing less and being careful when brushing the teeth.

Splint Therapy for Severe Jaw Fractures

In the case of a severe jaw fracture, the physician can recommend splint therapy. They will use a splint to hold and keep the impacted jaw steady. The jaw will remain in that position for the recommended period until it heals completely. You must minimize the use of your jaw and mouth during that period. The doctor could recommend a liquid diet or only soft foods until the jaw heals.

Surgical Treatment for Extreme Jaw Fractures

Your doctor can recommend surgical treatment for an extreme jaw fracture. In this treatment, they can set and wire close the jaw to prevent further movement within the treatment period for complete healing. Surgical treatments are invasive. That is why they are a doctor’s last resort when all other treatment options have failed to produce the required results.

All treatment options for fractured jaws aim to promote healing. But in most cases, when the jaw does not freely move as it should, it becomes stiff. Remember that jaw muscles are accustomed to free movement. Thus, they will likely become weak and tight after not moving as freely as they are accustomed to. Consequently, you will experience difficulties eating, drinking, or opening your mouth to speak, even after the fracture is completely healed.

You need the help of a physical therapist to regain the functionality of your jaws and mouth after treatment. A skilled physical therapist can work with you for the recommended period to restore the jaw's movement, muscular strength, and functionality.

Jaw Fractures are Preventable

Since most jaw fractures result from direct physical trauma to your face, you could avoid situations in which you are subjected to accidents and violence to prevent a jaw fracture. Though some accidents are unavoidable to some extent, you can always protect yourself from other traumatic incidents, like physical fights.

Protecting your face from trauma when playing your favorite sports could also protect you from a jaw fracture. For example, wearing a mouthguard or a proper helmet will protect your face in case of an accident.

Drivers can prevent some accidents by practicing safe driving. You could also protect yourself from the impact of an accident by wearing a seat belt whenever you are in a vehicle. That saves you from traumatic forces on your head and face.

You could also prevent some falls by walking on clear paths, wearing proper footwear, and engaging in any other safety practice that reduces your risk of falling. A skilled physical therapist can assess your work and home environments to ensure you are safe as you carry out your daily activities. That could also reduce your chances of sustaining an injury.

What a Physical Therapist Can Do For You

Treatment for a fractured jaw will take care of the pain, soreness, and any other symptoms you experienced after the fracture. But after a period of not freely moving your jaw, the joints can become stiff and the muscles weak, making it difficult to regain the functionality of the jaws and mouth. Since you need a fully functioning mouth to speak, eat, and drink like before, a physical therapist is required to help you regain the natural motion of the jaws. The therapist will also help reduce any pain you experience when opening your mouth and moving your jaw like before.

Physical therapists are movement experts. Their role starts right after your healing. They are trained to help injured patients improve movement on the affected body parts and manage pain and discomfort. Instead of attempting to regain your jaws’ functionality on your own, which can cause you more pain and possibly result in an injury, you can work with an expert for better results within a short period. Here are some of the steps a physical therapist will take to help you regain your jaw movement:

Reviewing Medical History

The physical therapist must understand your medical history before devising a treatment program. From your medical history, they will be able to understand your previous treatments, medical allergies, the jaw fracture and the treatment you received, any surgical complications you could have suffered, and any other injury to crucial areas like the jaw, neck, and head.

Physical Examination

The therapist will also conduct a physical examination to understand the quantity and quality of your jaw movement. They will also determine whether other body parts, like the neck and face, have been impacted. Additionally, they will assess your body posture and how much you can move your neck.

The physical examination will also determine how easily or otherwise you can open and close your mouth. It is advisable to openly tell your therapist how you feel when you open or attempt to open your mouth. The therapist will also check for any abnormalities after the fracture when you move your jaws.

With that information, it will be easy for your physical therapist to choose the best treatment to help relieve your pain and improve jaw, facial, and/or neck movement.

Improving Jaw Movement With the Help of a Physical Therapist

Remember that jaw movement is crucial as it helps you open and close your mouth when eating, drinking, speaking, and performing other activities like yawning. Thus, if your jaw movement was significantly impacted after a jaw fracture, a physical therapist can take you through a series of exercises to improve that movement and manage your pain. Here are some of the ways physical therapists improve jaw movements:

Movement and Stretching Exercises

Stretching and movement exercises can significantly improve jaw movement. Your therapist can suggest easy-to-do exercises, complete with guidelines on how intense they should be. Remember that you should not exert more pressure on your TMJ to prevent further damage. Your therapist will also instruct you on how regularly you must perform the exercises for the expected results. They will work closely with you to protect you from making regrettable mistakes.

Manual Therapy

Physical therapists also use manual therapy to manage pain and improve jaw movement after a jaw fracture. Manual therapy includes any strategy or technique the therapists perform with their hands to help alleviate pain and improve motion. An experienced therapist will likely use the right strategies for the desired results.

Low-Impact Exercises

Sometimes, all you need are lenient exercises to achieve the expected results. Physical therapists use lenient exercise to avoid exerting pressure on your TMJ and aggravating your problem. But the exercises must be sufficient to improve motion and strengthen your jaw.

Fortunately, some lenient exercises can significantly strengthen your muscles and restore motion. They also do not cause you pain. Your therapist will guide you on how to perform these exercises to improve your mouth’s functionality.

Pain Relief Therapy

Your therapist will also come up with strategies that will alleviate your pain and allow you to open and close your mouth effortlessly. If you are in pain, the therapist can use some therapies like deep heat application and electrical stimulation to manage your pain.

Choosing a Therapist after Jaw Fracture

You need a physical therapist to alleviate your pain and improve your jaw movement after a jaw fracture. But you have to select the right therapist for the desired results.

Physical therapists have the training and experience to handle patients recovering from injuries and long-term illnesses.

Here are some factors that will enable you to choose the right therapist. The right therapist will work alongside you until your complete recovery:

Skills and Experience

The skills and experience of a physical therapist are important to consider when engaging in their services. Your therapist must have experience handling musculoskeletal and orthopedic issues. Some therapists have knowledge and expertise in treating craniofacial issues. Their focus is mainly on movement disorders related to facial and skull structures. A therapist with the right skills and experience will conduct a proper diagnosis. It enables them to devise the best treatment plan for you. They also know the best strategies, techniques, and exercises to recommend for the desired results.

Certification and Licensing

Physical therapists are licensed professionals. They obtain board certification after training to serve particular patients in a specific area. A certificate and license show that the therapist can offer legal services. You are advised to work with a physical therapist who has completed a fellowship or residency in orthopedic physical therapy. They will have the skills, knowledge, and experience to treat your condition.

You can easily find the right physical therapist today through a simple online search. But you have to consider the credentials you need in a physical therapist, including their level of training and experience.

You can narrow your search to therapists in your location. Once you have a few recommendations, you can narrow your search by considering other factors like reliability, cost, and availability. You must also check their reviews to ensure you choose a legitimate and reliable physical therapist.

You can ask for recommendations from people who have used physical therapy before. For example, ask your family members, friends, colleagues, or healthcare professionals. They can recommend a reliable physical therapist. Again, you must consider the reviews from their previous patients to understand the kinds of services they offer.

Once you have a physical therapist in mind, book an appointment with them. Ask questions about their services, experience, and what they can do for you.

Find a Reliable Physical Therapist Near Me

Have you or your loved one suffered a jaw fracture in Las Vegas and need help to alleviate your pain and improve jaw movement after treatment?

You can significantly benefit from the services of a skilled physical therapist.

We are a team of movement experts at Suarez Physical Therapy. We handle all kinds of movement and pain issues, including jaw movements after a jaw fracture. We use the best strategies and exercises to ensure you achieve the desired results within the recommended treatment period. Call us at 702-368-6778 to learn more about our services and how they can benefit you.