There are numerous possible causes of facial trauma, ranging from motor vehicle accidents and sports injuries, to interpersonal violence and work-related injuries. The type of injury can include damage to teeth, skin and bones. Typically, facial injuries are classified as either soft tissue injuries (skin, gums) bone injuries or injuries to specialty regions (eyes, facial nerves, salivary glands).
To properly treat facial trauma, your dental professional should be well versed in emergency care, acute treatment and long-term reconstruction and rehabilitation. Oral and maxillofacial surgeons are trained, skilled and uniquely qualified to manage and treat facial trauma. Injuries to the face, by their very nature, impart a high degree of physical, as well as emotional, trauma. The science and art of treating these injuries requires special training, involving hands-on experience and an understanding of how the treatment provided will influence the patient’s long term function and appearance.
Our team of surgeons meet and exceed these high standards. In addition to their work at our practice, they are on the staff of local hospitals and deliver emergency room coverage for facial injuries, which can include conditions such as:
- Facial lacerations
- Intra-oral lacerations
- Avulsed (knocked out) teeth
- Fractured facial bones i.e. cheek, nose or eye socket
- Fractured jaws (upper and lower)
When soft tissue injuries occur on the face, they are often repaired by suturing. A top priority in treating these injuries is to ensure the best possible cosmetic results. Care is taken to inspect facial structures such as facial nerves, salivary glands and salivary ducts as part of treatment. Our surgeons are exceptionally trained, and proficient in diagnosing and treating all types of facial lacerations.
Fractures in the bones of the face are treated in a manner similar to the fractures in other parts of the body. The specific form of treatment is determined by the patient’s specific circumstances, such as the location and severity of the fracture, age and general health.
When an arm or leg is fractured, a cast is often applied to stabilize the bone to allow for proper healing. Since a cast cannot be placed on the face, other means have been developed to stabilize facial fractures. One option involves wiring the jaws together for certain fractures in the upper and/or lower jaw. Other fractures of the jaw can be stabilized by the surgical placement of small plates and screws. This treatment technique, referred to as rigid fixation often allows for healing and negates the need of having the jaws wired together. The relatively recent development and use of rigid fixation has profoundly improved the recovery period for many patients, allowing them to return to normal function more quickly.
The treatment of facial fractures should be accomplished in a thorough and predictable manner. Most importantly, the patient’s facial appearance should be only minimally affected. Our surgeons always attempt to access the facial bones through as few incisions as possible. Those incisions that are necessary are designed to be small and, whenever possible, placed so that the resulting scar is hidden.
Isolated injuries to teeth are quite common. However, depending on the circumstances, they may still require the expertise of various dental specialists. Oral surgeons are typically involved in treating fractures in the supporting bone, or in replacing teeth that have been displaced or knocked out. These injuries may be treated by a form of splinting, which is stabilizing by wiring or bonding teeth together.
If a tooth is knocked out, it should be placed in salt water or milk. The sooner the tooth is re-inserted into the socket, the better chances it will survive. An individual in this situation should see a dentist or oral surgeon as soon as possible. Never attempt to wipe the tooth off, since the remnants of the ligament that hold the tooth in the jaw are attached and are vital to the success of replanting the tooth.
Other dental specialists, such as endodontists, may be called upon to perform root canal therapy. And a restorative dentist may need to repair or rebuild fractured teeth. In the event that the injured teeth cannot be saved or repaired, dental implants are often utilized as a replacement for the missing teeth.