Oral & Maxillofacial Surgeons are specialist trained to manage and treat facial trauma. There are an infinite number of ways in which the face can be damaged and thus need some type of reconstruction. Accidents, falls, automobile crashes and interpersonal violence are among the most common causes. Some of the main types of facial injuries resulting from these instances are lacerations, fractured teeth, fractured jaws, fractured facial bones, knocked out teeth and intraoral lacerations.
There are three main classifications used by health professionals in their trauma assessment:
Soft Tissue Injuries – Soft tissue trauma includes lacerations to the skin and any kind of intraoral (gum) damage.
Avulsed (knocked out) Teeth - Injuries to the teeth are very common and must be dealt with immediately to insure success of reimplantation.
Bony Injuries – This category encompasses the entire face including fractured cheekbones, jaw bones, eye sockets, palates and noses.
Special Regions – Special regions refers to the nerves in the face, the eyes, and the salivary glands.
Reasons for Facial Trauma Reconstruction
Aside from the obvious aesthetic reasons for repairing damage to the face, there are also a number of serious health and dental concerns that can arise from even a small amount of trauma. No facial injury should be taken lightly. Depending on the exact location of the injury, respiration, speech and swallowing can be greatly impaired.
Though broken facial bones are generally treated in the emergency room, damage to the teeth can be quickly dealt with by the dentist. Failure to treat dental and facial trauma can lead to the following longer term problems:
- Loss of Functionality: When teeth have fallen victim to trauma, they may become loose in their sockets and make eating and speaking much more difficult.
- Smile Aesthetics: Chipped, broken or missing teeth can be detrimental to a beautiful smile. The dentist is able to repair chips, fractures and missing teeth easily.
- Bite/Jaw Irregularities: After trauma, it is possible that the teeth will become badly aligned. The poor alignment of the teeth can lead to TMJ, uneven teeth wear and other complications.
What does correcting facial trauma involve?
If facial bones have been fractured or broken, they will be treated in much the same way as any other broken bone. Of course, a plaster cast cannot be applied to a cheekbone, but the bones can be held firmly together by either wiring or the insertion of small plates and screws. Soft tissue lacerations will be treated immediately by way of suture (stitching).
In cases where a tooth has been knocked cleanly out of the mouth, there is still a possibility of reinserting it. The quicker a re-insertion can be performed by the dentist, the greater the likelihood that the natural tooth will survive. In the event that the tooth lacks the ligaments necessary for reinsertion, the dentist can implant a prosthetic tooth to restore both functionality and aesthetic appearance. The dentist can also “splint” displaced teeth using structural support such as bonding or wiring with a good amount of success. Root canal therapy is also a possibility for loose or broken teeth.
Your dentist will conduct a thorough examination and take various x-rays in order to determine the precise condition of the afflicted area and plan a course of action. Pain medication will be prescribed as necessary, and you’ll be given post treatment advice for your recovery.