Injuries to the face give a high emotional and physical trauma to the patient. The science and art of treating these injuries requires special training with a "hands -on " experience and an understanding of how to influence the long-term function and appearance of the patient
The nature of maxillofacial trauma
There are a number of possible causes of facial trauma. Car accidents, accidental falls, sports injuries, interpersonal violence and work related injuries are often the causes. Facial injuries can range from injuries of teeth to extremely severe injuries of the skin and bones of the face. Usually, facial injuries are classified as soft tissue injuries (skin and gums ), bony injuries (fractures), or injuries to special regions (such as the eyes, facial nerves or the salivary glands).
Soft tissue injuries of the maxillofacial region
Soft tissue injuries, such as cuts, are repaired by suturing. In addition to the obvious concern to yield the best possible cosmetic result, special attention is paid to the functional reconstruction (facial nerves, salivary glands and salivary ducts). A well-trained surgeon is skilled at diagnosing and treating all types of facial wounds.
Bony injuries of the maxillofacial region
Fractures of the bones of the face can be treated in a manner similar to the fractures in other parts of the body. The specific treatment is determined by several factors, which include the site and the severity of the fracture and the age and general health of the patient. When an arm or a leg is broken, a plaster cast is used to stabilize and provide for a proper healing for the bone. Since plaster can not be placed on the face, there are different devices developed in order to stabilize facial fractures
One of these options includes wires to connect the upper and the lower jaws together (intermaxillary fixation). However, fractures of the jaws are best treated and stabilized by the surgical placement of plates and screws. This treatment technique ensures healing and avoids the need of connecting the jaws to each other.
The treatment of facial fractures should be accomplished in a thorough and predictable manner. Most important is that the patient's facial appearance is minimally affected. It is always extremely important that access to the facial bones should be ensured by the least necessary incisions. At the same time, the necessary incisions are small and if possible, they are placed so that the resultant scar is hidden.
Injury to the teeth
Isolated injuries to teeth are quite common and they belong to the expertise of dental specialists. Oral and maxillofacial surgeons are usually involved in treating fractures of the supporting bone or reinserting teeth that have fallen out. These types of injuries are treated by several types of splints. If a tooth is removed, it must be placed in salt water or milk. The faster the tooth will be re-inserted, the better for the survival of the tooth. Therefore, the patient should see a dentist or surgeon as soon as possible.
The information listed above is the opinion of the doctors of the Department of Maxillofacial Surgery, AZ Sint Jan Bruges, Belgium and does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the specialty as a whole.