Does Your Dentist Break Your Jaw To Remove Wisdom Teeth

Written & Reviewed by Dr David Chen

Breaking your jaw is NOT a part of the wisdom teeth removal process but it can be a potential surgical complication. We will explain what the extraction procedure entails and why a broken jaw is an unintended complication.

Hopefully that will assuage your fears and put your curiosity to rest.

Wisdom teeth removal process

We will describe in detail, step by step about what to expect during the extraction of your wisdom teeth. To your dismay or relief, you’ll see that breaking your jaw is not a part of any of the involved procedural steps.

Impacted wisdom tooth pano x ray
Pano x-ray showing impacted wisdom teeth

What to expect, step by step:

  1. Apply numbing gel to pre-numb the injection site.
  2. Administer local anesthetic via an injection with a syringe.
  3. Make an incision via preferred surgical flap design.
  4. Reflect the gum flap to expose the jaw bone.
  5. Drill away bone to expose the impacted wisdom tooth.
  6. Section the third molar into pieces.
  7. Elevate each piece with an elevator.
  8. Deliver each removed pieced with dental forceps.
  9. Place wisdom teeth stitches to close up surgical site.
  10. Bite on gauze to stop the bleeding and you’re all done!

It is unnecessary for your mandible to be broken just to take out wisdom teeth. It makes no sense nor does it help you take out the teeth. Honestly, we’re not sure where this idea even came from but at afterva, we’ll answer any question that you may have.

Jaw bone may be cut but not broken

For third molars that are impacted and stuck inside the jaw bone, some drilling is required to cut away some of the bone to expose the molar. This drilling process is not the same as breaking the jaw.

An analogy would be drilling into a plank of wood vs breaking it in half. Those two actions are not the same. A similar situation can be said about removing your impacted wisdom tooth.

Broken jaw is a complication

While breaking your jaw is not a part of the extraction process, it can happen as a surgical complication. That means when it does happen, it is unintended and certainly not wanted.

According to multiple research studies, extracting impacted lower wisdom teeth presented the greatest risk for mandibular fracture.

The point that we’re trying to make is that if your mandible breaks during the surgery, it is a complication and it wasn’t supposed to happen. In fact, it is considered one of the most severe complications that can occur with lower third molars. Fortunately, it is relatively rare with a low rate of incidence, ranging from 0.0034% to 0.075%.

Risk factors

Under normal circumstances the mandible isn’t supposed to break but there are certain factors which can increase the chances of it happening.

Risk factors:

  • Reduction in bone elasticity. After the 4th decade of life, the aging process results in reduced bone elasticity.
  • Osteoporosis. Weakened bones from osteoporosis is a big contributor.
  • Excessive extraction force. Excessive forces used during the extraction can contribute. Hopefully your dentist wasn’t putting their knee on your chest to take that tooth out!
  • Impacted lower third molars. Impacted upper molars don’t present as much of a risk because it is the impacted lower third molars that do.

This can happen while extracting any of your teeth but it is more likely for bottom teeth. It is especially more prone for the impacted third molar. That’s simply based on statistics.

What to expect after jaw is broken

If your jaw breaks unexpectedly during the wisdom tooth removal process, you’re going to have a very long day. There are multiple ways to repair a fractured mandible but there is a high possibility, you may need to be treated at a hospital.

Options for repairing mandible fractures:

  • Bridle wires. A bridle wire is wound around the two teeth where the fracture has occurred. It helps to hold the jaw in place until a permanent solution can be provided.
  • Closed reduction. The mandible can be repaired via closed reduction which is when a surgical incision is not used to expose the fracture. This method typically involves wiring the entire jaw shut for at least a couple of weeks.
  • Open reduction. An open reduction involves surgically exposing the fracture and then placing plates with screws to reduce the fracture. Yes, this needs to be done in the operating room (OR) of a hospital. It is not an outpatient service!
pano of repaired mandible fracture with plates and screws
Pano x-ray showing plates and screws after mandible fracture repair

Even if you’ve never had a wisdom tooth taken out, you can probably get the sense that this is not a part of the normal process. Yes, this is a serious complication.

Takeaway

Your dentist does not need to break your jaw in order to take out your wisdom teeth. The entire surgical procedure does not require it for an extraction.

Although if it does happen it means that you’ve a complication with your surgical procedure. That’s not the kind of news you should be expecting nor would want.

We don’t want to say it but you’re going to having some really bad weeks ahead of you… What follows will be multiple visits to the hospital to get that mandible fracture repaired.

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Our purpose at afterva, is to encourage you to seek in person care with a doctor. It's not meant to be a substitute for medical advice.

A lot of nuances cannot be detected without an in-person clinical exam, which means it is near impossible to diagnose and treat virtually.

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