What Are Facial Fractures?

Medically Reviewed by Jennifer Robinson, MD on March 17, 2023
2 min read

Facial fractures are broken bones anywhere on the face. This includes the nose, cheekbones, the area around the eyes, and the upper and lower jaw.

Most of the time, they’re due to some kind of trauma to the face, like motor vehicle crashes, sporting injuries, falls, or fights. Sometimes, they happen because the bones in the face are weakened by a dental procedure or condition.

It depends on which bones in the face are broken. Some things, like pain, swelling, and bruising, are symptoms of any broken bone.

Here’s what you can expect to experience with the main types of facial fractures:

Broken nose (nasal fracture)

  • Pain
  • Swelling
  • Nosebleeds
  • Bruising around the nose
  • Difficulty breathing

Forehead fracture (frontal bone)

  • The forehead may appear inverted (pushed inward)
  • Pain around the sinuses
  • Injuries to the eyes

Broken cheekbone/upper jaw (zygomatic maxillary fracture)

  • Flatness of the cheek
  • Altered sensation underneath the eye on the affected side
  • Problems with eyesight
  • Pain with jaw movement

Eye socket (orbital) fracture

This involves the bones of the eye socket. It usually happens when a blunt object such as a fist or a ball hits the eye.

  • A black eye
  • Redness or bleeding in the white of the eye
  • Blurry or decreased vision
  • Numbness in the forehead, eyelids, cheek, or upper lip/teeth
  • Swelling of the cheek or forehead

Broken jaw

  • Pain
  • Bruising, swelling, or tenderness along the jaw or below the ear
  • Inability to bring the teeth together properly (malocclusion)
  • Bruising under the tongue (almost always indicates a jaw fracture)
  • Missing or loose teeth
  • Numbness in the lower lip or chin

Midface (maxillary) fracture:

The main symptom is swelling or deformity on the face.

If you have a facial injury, see your doctor as soon as possible. Some facial fractures can be life-threatening. Others can cause problems with your respiratory system, airway passages, central nervous system, or vision that can’t be reversed.

The physical examination and types of tests your doctor orders will depend on the type of injury you have.

Your doctor will examine your face for any signs of swelling and pain. They’ll also check for any changes in mobility (whether you’re able to move parts of your face). You’ll probably have X-rays taken. Most fractures will show up clearly on these tests.

This depends on your specific injury, how bad it is, and whether you have any other problems at the time. Your doctor’s goal will be to put the bones back into their natural position. This is called “reducing” the fracture. They’ll also want to keep the bones in place to prevent further injury. Doctors call this “fixing” the fracture.

You may need surgery. Or, your doctor may use plates, screws, wires, or other devices to repair your injury.

They may also prescribe antibiotics to prevent infection.