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Difficulty breathing, talking, or swallowing following a facial injury

Injuries to the face can cause rapid swelling, which can make it harder to breathe or swallow normally. Mild difficulty breathing or swallowing can quickly become more serious following a facial injury.

Difficulty breathing

Difficulty breathing following a facial injury may be caused by:

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  • Airway obstruction. Saliva, blood, vomit, swollen or injured tissues, broken teeth, dirt, or broken dental work or dentures may block your airways, causing mild difficulty breathing. This can quickly progress to complete obstruction. It is important to keep the airway clear.
  • Broken facial bones, such as the cheekbone, nose, or jaw.

Slight swelling of the nasal passages may cause a stuffy nose. The stuffiness will often clear up within 48 to 72 hours with home treatment.

Nasal stuffiness following a facial injury in a baby can be more serious. Babies like to breathe through their noses, so a facial injury may cause some breathing trouble for them. Prompt medical treatment can prevent complications.

Difficulty talking or swallowing

Difficulty talking or swallowing your own saliva following a facial injury may be caused by:

  • Saliva, blood, vomit, swollen or injured tissues, broken teeth, dirt, or broken dental work or dentures inside your mouth.
  • Broken bones in your face.
  • A dislocated jaw. This occurs when the lower jawbone (mandible) is pulled apart from one or both of the joints connecting it to the base of the skull at the temporomandibular (TM) joints.
  • Pain that prevents you from moving your mouth to talk.
Author Jan Nissl, RN, BS
Editor Susan Van Houten, RN, BSN, MBA
Associate Editor Tracy Landauer
Primary Medical Reviewer William M. Green, MD - Emergency Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer H. Michael O'Connor, MD - Emergency Medicine
Last Updated May 11, 2009

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: May 11, 2009
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.

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