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Health A-Z

Medical Content Created by the Faculty of the
Harvard Medical School

Diagnosis

Your doctor will review your symptoms and ask you how you injured your jaw. Your doctor also will ask if you have broken or severely injured your jaw before and whether your bite felt normal before you injured your jaw.

Next, your doctor will examine the entire length of your jaw, looking at its shape, whether both sides look the same, how it is aligned with the rest of your face, and any obvious areas of swelling, cuts, bruising, deformity or tenderness. Your doctor also will check for tenderness inside your ear canal (a sign that your jaw joint may be injured) and for numbness in your lower lip and chin. Next, your doctor will ask you to open your mouth to see whether your jaw joint opens normally and evenly. While your mouth is open, the doctor will check for broken and loose teeth, obvious abnormalities in the alignment of your teeth and areas of swelling or bruising along your gums.

To make sure that a broken jaw is the problem your doctor will either order standard X-rays of your jaw or a special dental panoramic X-ray (Panorex). For some fractures near the jaw joint, a computed tomography (CT) scan may be necessary.

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From Health A-Z, Harvard Health Publications. Copyright 2007 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College. All rights reserved. Written permission is required to reproduce, in any manner, in whole or in part, the material contained herein. To make a reprint request, contact Harvard Health Publications. Used with permission of StayWell.

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