Facial Dental Trauma

Injuries to the face and mouth can be traumatic and difficult to recover from. Breaking a bone or trauma anywhere on the body can be extremely painful, but when it comes to the face, it can be especially painful and emotionally scarring. If you have experienced facial (maxillofacial) trauma, you want the best care possible.

At Foley and Le Oral Surgery, our team is highly trained and experienced in treating all types of facial trauma. Dr. Foley and Dr. Le have staff privileges at our local hospital and provide emergency department coverage for facial injuries such as facial lacerations, intra-oral lacerations, knocked-out teeth, and fractured facial and jaw bones. If you require a maxillofacial surgeon or emergency dental care in Boulder, CO, Louisville, CO, Lafayette, CO, Broomfield, CO, or Longmont, CO, call us immediately at (303) 444-2255 to schedule an appointment.

What Is Maxillofacial Trauma?

Maxillofacial trauma is any type of injury that occurs to the skin and bones of the face, in the mouth, or to the jaws. These injuries range from cuts and bruises to more severe problems like broken bones or teeth. 

Whether it’s a sports injury, a car accident, or a fall, maxillofacial trauma can be extremely painful and difficult to recover from, and these injuries require special attention. If left untreated, facial and dental trauma can lead to serious long-term problems, so it’s important to seek care from a qualified specialist as soon as possible.

Types of Maxillofacial Injuries

Many different types of maxillofacial injuries can occur, and the type of injury will dictate the course of treatment.

Facial Lacerations

This can be a cut or tear that occurs on the face. Facial lacerations are often caused by falls, car accidents, or other types of trauma. Facial lacerations can range from minor cuts that heal on their own to more serious wounds that require stitches. 

Aside from the issue of providing a repair that produces the finest possible cosmetic outcome, injuries to underlying tissue are meticulously examined and treated, including facial nerves, salivary glands, and ducts.

Intraoral Lacerations

These injuries are a cut or tear that occurs inside the mouth. These lacerations can be caused by teeth shattering, biting on hard objects, or a direct injury to the mouth. Lacerations can range from minor cuts that heal on their own to more serious wounds that require stitches or surgery. Intraoral cuts can be difficult to treat because of their location, so an experienced specialist is often necessary.

Dental Injuries

These injuries are also relatively common, and they can range from a chipped tooth to a completely knocked out tooth. Dental injuries are common in those playing sports or other activities with a risk of collision or falls. Dental injuries can also occur due to car accidents or other types of trauma. 

When a tooth is knocked out, it is important to remember the following:

  • The avulsed tooth should not be scrubbed if it is knocked out.
  • Rinse the tooth with water, replant it in the socket, or immerse it in salt water or milk.
  • The tooth must be reinserted into the dental socket within 90 minutes after it is knocked out of the mouth for it to survive.

Facial Bone Fractures

Facial bone fractures are some of the most common types of maxillofacial injuries. The facial bones are relatively thin and delicate, so they can be easily broken. Fractures can occur in facial bones, including the skull, nose, cheekbones, orbital bones, and jawbone. Facial bone fractures can range from minor to more severe mandibular fractures requiring a complex surgical procedure to repair.

Facial fractures are classified as:

  1. Non-displaced and/or minimally displaced 
  2. Displaced (may require the placement of plates and screws) 
  3. Complex (bones that may have shattered and may have direct contact with the surface of the skin) 

After an arm or a leg is fractured, a cast may aid the bone’s stability so that healing can occur. Because a cast cannot be placed on the face, alternative techniques have been created to stabilize facial fractures.

  • Facial fractures such as orbital and zygomatic fractures are the most commonly diagnosed fractures. To repair them, the most commonly used technique is called an open reduction and internal fixation, which involves making small incisions in the skin to access the broken bone so that it can be set back into place and held there with titanium screws or plates.
  • Another common type of jaw healing stabilization is wiring the jaws and teeth together. Fractures of the upper or lower jaw bone are typically treated with this technique. 
  • In addition to wiring the jaws together, rigid fixation may be necessary. These fractures require the placement of plates and screws to stabilize the fractures while healing occurs.


Recovery from maxillofacial injuries can be a long and difficult process. Depending on the severity of the injury, it can take weeks or even months to fully recover. In some cases, surgery may be required to correct the damage. 

After surgery, there is typically a period of recovery where the patient will need to rest and heal. During this time, it is important to follow the instructions of your surgeon to ensure a successful recovery.

Managing Swelling

One of the most common concerns following maxillofacial surgery is managing swelling. Swelling is a normal part of the healing process but can be uncomfortable and unsightly. 

Swelling of the face is common with jaw fractures and usually increases after surgical treatment.  Swelling should begin to subside approximately 72 hours following surgery.  To help decrease swelling, sleep with your head elevated on two pillows for the first five nights.  If you experience a dramatic increase in swelling after you have been discharged from the hospital you should contact your surgeon.

Your surgeon will provide you with specific instructions regarding pain management after surgery. For more information, see the Jaw Fractures surgical instructions page. 

Your Emergency Dentist in Boulder CO

We take all facial trauma very seriously and are here to help anytime. We are equipped to handle all types of dental emergencies, including facial fractures. We understand that these injuries can be frightening, and we will do everything we can to make you feel comfortable and ease your pain. If you or a family member needs an emergency dentist in Boulder, CO, Louisville, Co, Lafayette, CO, Broomfield, Co, or Longmont, CO, call (303) 444-2255, we are here to help!

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Frequently Asked Questions

Are wisdom teeth a dental emergency?

While wisdom teeth can cause a lot of pain, they are not considered a dental emergency. You should see your dentist or oral surgeon if you have problems with your wisdom teeth, but you don’t need to go to the hospital.

Is a loose dental implant an emergency?

No, a loose dental implant is not an emergency. You should see your dentist or oral surgeon as soon as possible to fix the issue, but you don’t need to go to the hospital.

Can you go to the ER for a dental emergency?

Yes, you can go to the ER for a dental emergency such as avulsed teeth because significant blood loss can be involved. However, most ERs are not equipped to handle dental emergencies, and you will likely be referred to a dentist or oral surgeon.

Where to go for dental emergency near me?

If you have a dental emergency, call Foley and Le oral surgery for the best care. With years of experience, our oral surgeons are equipped to handle any type of dental emergency.

Is an abscess considered a dental emergency?

Yes, an abscess is considered a dental emergency because it is a serious infection. If you think you have an abscess, call your dentist or oral surgeon right away.

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