Jaw and Bones Treatments


Jaw and Bones Treatments

The jawbone is a critical part of your face. It provides structure to your face and allows you to talk and eat properly. Any problems with the jawbone, such as mandible fractures, mid facial fractures, pain in the temporomandibular joints, jaw pain, or bone infection can affect various aspects of your oral health and overall health. Please continue reading to understand some of the conditions that can affect the jawbone and how they are treated.

Bone Loss in the Jaw

What causes jawbone loss?

Jawbone or dental bone loss can arise from various causes like tooth loss, periodontal disease (gum disease), and other medical conditions. Without treatment, it can cause issues with the remaining teeth, distort the facial features, and cause additional problems.  

What are the signs of dental bone loss?

People with missing teeth often have loss of the jawbone as well. The process is gradual and not always obvious. You should visit your dentist regularly. If your dentist suspects bone loss, they may order an X-ray to make a diagnosis.

What are the consequences on the upper and lower teeth?

Severe jawbone loss over a prolonged period can lead to facial collapse, where the mouth falls back into the face. The facial muscles can become weak and you can develop premature wrinkling, making you look much older than you are.  

Bone loss in the jaw not only affects your appearance but also your oral health. It can impact the stability of your teeth. It can also cause symptoms like headaches, jaw and face pain, and problems with eating and speaking. In some people, bone loss in the jaw can limit the ability to undergo certain dental procedures like dental implants. 

How is dental bone loss treated?

The most effective way to restore lost jawbone is through bone grafting. The dentist or oral surgeon will replace lost tissue with grafting material. This material is absorbed and replaced with healthy, natural tissues over a few months' time. The graft material can be your own bone, donor bone, or a synthetic material. Some studies have shown benefit of an osteoporosis treatment called teriparatide for jawbone loss, but the safety and efficacy is still being studied.

How can I prevent jawbone loss?

You should follow a good dental hygiene regimen, avoid smoking, and maintain an overall healthy lifestyle to keep your jaw healthy. Like all bones, your jawbone needs nutrients like calcium and vitamin D. Eat a well balanced diet to optimize bone health. Take supplements if your diet is not enough. If you have a missing tooth, talk to your dentist about getting a dental implant. This dental procedure mimics a natural tooth and provides stability to the surrounding tissues.

Can they rebuild your jaw bone?

If you have experienced bone loss in the jaw, a dental professional can perform bone grafting and replace any missing teeth with dental implants.

Is bone loss in the jaw reversible?

Bone loss cannot be reversed. If you do not get treatment, the bone will continue to be absorbed, leading to further complications.

Can my jaw be fixed without surgery?

Certain problems, such as underbite, overbite, or crossbite can be fixed without jaw surgery. Other conditions may require surgery to correct.

Jaw Fractures or Dislocated Jaw

What is a broken or dislocated jaw?

The jawbone is a U-shaped bone in the lower face. A broken jaw (mandible fracture) is a break in this bone. It is a common type of facial fracture.

What causes a broken jaw?

The jawbone is one of the most commonly fractured bones in the body. Mandible fractures usually occur due to direct force trauma as a result of motor vehicle accidents, assaults, falls, sports injuries, and workplace accidents. These injuries are three times more common in men than in women.

A jaw dislocation is a displacement of the jawbone from its usual location. It can be caused by trauma or opening the mouth too wide while yawning, taking a big bite, or during a dental procedure.

What are the symptoms of a broken jaw?

The most common symptoms of a jaw fracture are jaw pain, bruising, swelling, numbness, bleeding, malocclusion (the teeth don't fit properly), and trouble with speaking or chewing. A dislocated jaw can make it difficult for you to open your mouth wide and cause jaw pain.

If you have any of these symptoms, seek medical care without delay at a hospital emergency department. Jaw fractures can lead to potentially life-threatening complications such as breathing difficulties.

How do doctors diagnose a broken jaw?

A doctor can diagnose a broken jaw based on a physical exam and X-rays.

What is the treatment broken bones in the jaw?

Your doctor will likely advise icing the jaw to control pain and swelling, pain medications, and a soft diet. You may also receive antibiotics and/or a tetanus shot. If your mandible fracture is unstable, you may need oral surgery with metal plates placement.

To treat a dislocated jaw, your doctor might do manual repositioning (move the jaw back into place), Barton bandage (a bandage that goes under the jaw and behind the head for support), or surgery to tighten the ligaments.

How long does it take to recover from a broken jaw?

A broken jaw usually heals in several weeks, typically 1-2 months. Follow your dentist or surgeon's instructions to increase your chances of a quick and uneventful recovery.

How do I prevent broken bones in the jaw?

Most jaw fractures occur due to accidents. Drive carefully and avoid violent situations. Wear protective gear while playing sports to prevent injury.

Midface Fractures

What are midface fractures?

Injuries to the jawbone often occur in combination with injuries to the midface. The eyes, nose, cheeks, and mouth can be damaged as a result of the same injury. While fractures of the lower jaw are called mandible fractures, those of the upper jaw are called facial fractures or maxillary fractures.

What are the symptoms of midface fractures?

Fractures of the midface can cause symptoms like facial swelling, numbness, vision problems, sunken eyeballs, changes in the bite, and inability to open the mouth fully.

How do doctors diagnose and treat these fractures?

Doctors diagnose midface fractures by examination and through X-rays and CT scans. Mild midface fractures may only require conservative treatment with pain management and a soft diet. Treatment for more severe injuries may require surgery where the surgeon will use metal plates to hold the bones together. Sometimes, the jaw needs to be wired shut while it heals. In this case, you can only drink liquids through a straw and rinse your mouth with a mouthwash. If you suspect your upper or lower jaw may be fractured, you should see a healthcare provider immediately.

Temporomandibular Joint Syndrome

What is TMJ?

TMJ, short for temporomandibular joint, is the joint between the mandible (lower jaw) and the skull. It is present in front of the ears on each side of the head. The TMJ allows you to open and close your jaw, eat, and speak.

What is TMJ disorder? Why does it occur?

TMJ disorder is a condition associated with pain in the jawbone and muscles of the jaw. It can occur due to arthritis, joint erosion from habitual grinding of the teeth, or structural problems present since birth. Other potential causes of TMJ disorder are poor posture that strains the neck and face muscles, prolonged stress, lack of sleep, and treatment with orthodontic braces.

What are the symptoms of TMJD?

The symptoms of TMJ disorder can vary from person to person. The most common symptom is jaw pain. Some people also experience neck and face pain, muscle stiffness, limited movement of the jaw, locking of the jaw, clicking sounds, and malocclusion. The symptoms can be present on one or both sides.

How do doctors diagnose TMJD?

There are no specific tests for TMJD and it can be difficult to diagnose. You may need to see an ENT doctor (ear, nose, and throat specialist). They may order X-rays, CT scans, or MRIs.

How is TMJD treated?

Conservative self-care measures at home work for most patients. This includes reducing swelling with icing, eating a soft diet, avoiding hard foods, reducing jaw movements, and doing stretching exercises. Your doctor may prescribe pain medications, muscle relaxants, or drugs to reduce jaw swelling. You may need to wear a splint or bite guard to prevent grinding of the teeth. Botox injections can help relieve the muscle tension in many patients. Some people benefit from psychotherapy to manage stress. Surgical treatments can include corrective dental procedures for teeth alignment, removal of fluid or debris from the joint, or joint replacement.

How can I prevent TMJD?

Keep your stress levels under control. Try to stop grinding your teeth by wearing a mouth guard at night.

Osteonecrosis of the Jaw (ONJ)

What is ONJ? What causes it?

Osteonecrosis of the jaw (ONJ) is a condition in which the jaw bone starts to die (osteo means bone and necrosis means death). This happens due to a lack of blood supply. The most common cause is a dental extraction. People who take oral bisphosphonates like alendronate, ibandronate, and zoledronic acid are also at higher risk. These are medications used for osteoporosis treatment. ONJ is more common when these same medications are used for cancer treatment.

What are the symptoms of ONJ?

Pain, swelling, numbness, heaviness, and pus are common. A non-healing tooth socket after tooth extraction, poor healing, gum infections, an area of exposed bone in the mouth, and loose teeth are also common symptoms of ONJ.

What is the treatment for ONJ?

Doctors treat osteonecrosis of the jaw conservatively with mouth irrigation, pain medications, and antibiotics. Superficial debridement (removal of dead tissues) is also among the treatment options.

How many people develop ONJ?

A very small number of people who take oral bisphosphonates to treat cancer or osteoporosis go on to develop ONJ. It is impossible to predict who is at increased risk to develop jaw osteonecrosis. Research shows that it occurs in 1-2% of people taking osteoporosis treatment or cancer treatment.

What increases my risk of getting ONJ?

Taking oral osteoporosis treatments, denture use, tooth extraction, recent oral surgery, and poor oral hygiene are the most common causes of osteonecrosis of the jaw. Other risk factors for developing ONJ may include diabetes and steroid use.

What can I do to reduce my risk of ONJ?

Good oral hygiene and regular dental care, especially if you are taking bisphosphonates, is the best way to lower your risk.

Finding a doctor for jawbone problems

The MeTime app makes it easy to connect with leading dentists and oral surgeons in your area. You can chat with experts, share photos, do a video consultation, and get answers to all your questions from a health care provider. Download the MeTime app today and get the treatment you need.

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