Jaw wiring (also known as maxillomandibular fixation) is a surgical procedurewhere metal pins and wires are anchored into the jaw bones and surrounding tissues to keep an injured jaw from moving.
Jaw wiring keeps the bones aligned and stable while the jaw heals. Wiring thejaw may also be used if it's necessary to remove or reconstruct the jaw as aresult of cancer or disease. Wiring the jaws shut also has been used in thepast as a weight loss aid in cases of extreme obesity where other treatmentshad failed, although this procedure is rarely used for that purpose today.
Jaw wiring surgery can be performed by an oral surgeon or specially trained dentist called a maxillofacial surgeon, or by a doctor specializing in surgeries of the head and neck (otolaryngologist). The procedure may be done in a medical or dental office if the office is staffed and equipped to handle this type of surgery. More often, this surgery is performed in a hospital or medical center surgical area.
Depending on the extent of the facial injury or condition to be corrected, the patient may receive a sedative for relaxation, a local anesthetic drug to numb the area, or general anesthesia before surgery.
During surgery, the surgeon realigns the fractured bones. Every effort is made to restore the shape and appearance of the original jaw line. If any teethwere damaged, repair or replacement may be done at the same time. Small incisions may be made through the skin and surrounding tissue so the pins and wires can be set into the jawbone to hold the fracture together. To prevent the lower jaw from moving during healing, pins and wires may be inserted into thetop jaw, as well. The upper and lower jaws are then wired together in order to stabilize the fracture.
As with other types of bone fractures, the jaw may take several weeks to heal. Another type of jaw immobilization that has been developed more recently iscalled rigid fixation. This method uses small metal plates and screws ratherthan pins and wires to secure the jaw bones. The main benefit of this technique is that the jaws don't have to be wired shut, allowing the patient to more quickly return to a normal lifestyle.
A patient whose jaw has been wired will not be able to eat solid foods for several weeks, but good nutrition is vital for the bone and surrounding tissuesto heal. A liquid diet that can be consumed through a straw will be required. Soft, precooked foods can be liquefied in a blender, but liquid diet formulas may be a good alternative. The patient will also have to be taught how tocare for the mouth, teeth, and injured area while the wires are in place.
There may be some scars from the small incisions used to insert the wires. With any surgical procedure, there are risks associated with the anesthetic drugs and the possibility of infection. If there is a risk that the patient mayvomit, the jaw wiring may pose a choking hazard. It may be recommended that wire cutters be kept available in case the wires need to be cut in an emergency situation.