Treating Facial Trauma

In the event of certain facial traumas, it’s vital to see an oral and maxillofacial surgeon as soon as possible. Our doctors are specially trained to manage and treat facial injuries, which can create emotional trauma in addition to physical pain.

In this post, we’ll cover the types and causes of trauma that often require treatment by a maxillofacial specialist and discuss what you should look for in an oral surgeon.


Common causes of facial trauma

Motor vehicle accidents and sports are two of the most common causes of facial trauma, but any type of accidental fall can lead to damage. Scenarios that likely will require the specialized training of an oral surgeon include:

  • Knocked out teeth
  • Severe facial lacerations
  • Lacerations inside the mouth
  • Fractures of the jaw, cheek, nose or eye socket

Typical treatments

Teeth that are knocked out should be placed in salt water or milk to increase the likelihood that they can be replanted successfully. Often, damaged teeth will be bonded together for stabilization during healing. Teeth that have been knocked out and do not survive, or teeth that are fractured beyond repair, are typically replaced with dental implants. Root canal therapy and other restorative dental procedures may be needed after the initial healing following emergency care.

Soft tissue injuries, such as deep cuts or tears, are repaired by suturing. Oral and maxillofacial surgeons are trained to treat soft tissue injuries and to look for related problems that might be present, such as injuries to facial nerves, salivary glands and salivary ducts.

Oral surgeons also treat breaks in the nose, cheekbones and upper or lower jaw. Small hairline fractures may be left to heal on their own. Significant fractures will likely require the bone to be reset to its natural position for healing. In those cases, surgery may be needed along with titanium plates, screws or wires to hold the bone in place.

It’s not always easy to tell when a break has occurred. If you experience a facial injury with one or more of the following symptoms, it’s best to see a maxillofacial surgeon.

  • Excessive swelling and pain
  • Teeth that are not touching in the normal bite
  • Changes in facial sensation in response to hot, cold and touch
  • Loss of facial mobility

Facial X-rays will be taken to look for any facial fractures, and to determine their exact location and severity.

Choosing a doctor

In the event of an emergency you may not have a lot of time to research oral and maxillofacial surgeons—and most times the best decision will be to go to an emergency room for an evaluation. But try to choose an oral surgeon with the following qualifications:

  • Hands-on experience in emergency care
  • Well-versed in acute treatment and long-term reconstruction and rehabilitation
  • A strong understanding of how treatment options will affect both function and appearance
  • Training related to helping patients overcome emotional obstacles during the healing process