What Is Craniofacial Trauma?

Craniofacial trauma is a blanket term that refers to an injury of the face or skull. This can refer to skin, bone and teeth injuries as well parts of the mouth, neck and sinuses. Maxillofacial trauma is another name for injuries that primarily affect the facial features.

Craniofacial trauma can range from a minor scrape to lifetime disfigurement. Pediatric craniofacial trauma is treated differently than adult facial trauma, as normal growth and development of the skull and face can be impacted.

Difficult and severe cases of craniofacial trauma require help from a team of pediatric craniofacial doctors and specialists. The state of growth and development in children require special considerations when performing corrective surgery so that the treatment grows with your child.

Thanks to CT scans and other imaging technologies, doctors have much better insight into evaluating the damage and potential long-term problems caused by craniofacial trauma. In some cases, immediate surgery may be necessary. In other cases, allowing swelling and bruising to heal first is a better option.

What Causes Craniofacial Trauma?

Being an injury to the face or skull, any activity that increases a child’s chances to receive injury could contribute to craniofacial trauma. Common activities such as contact sports and gymnastics can increase the likelihood of receiving a craniofacial injury.

Children involved in athletics or rough play should always be supervised by an adult and wear appropriate protective gear. Helmets with face guards are the most important pieces of equipment to protect children from experiencing craniofacial trauma during these activities.

What Are the Symptoms of Craniofacial Trauma?

Facial trauma is often recognized by swelling, bruising and skin lacerations (cuts). Widening of the distance between a child’s eyes and movement in the upper jaw even when the head is stabilized are signs that bones within the face are broken.

Abnormal sensations around a child’s face and bleeding from the ears, nose or mouth can also indicate severe craniofacial trauma.

What Are the Treatments for Craniofacial Trauma?

The treatment a child receives for craniofacial trauma depends on the area of the skull or face affected:

Soft Tissue Injuries

Most soft tissue injuries result are treated with antiseptic and a bandage, however, bad cuts often also require sutures to close the wound. Doctors will also examine the injury to ensure that the child’s nerves, glands and ducts were not damaged by the injury.

Bone Injuries

Bone fractures in the face are treated in a similar manner to fractures that occur in other parts of the body. Very minor fractures may not need treatment and can heal normally on their own. More serious fractures require the bones to be stabilized in order to heal properly. In these cases, surgery along with implants such as wires, plates and screws may be necessary.

Injuries to the Teeth and Dental Structures

Injuries to a child’s teeth are very common and are typically treated by pediatric dental specialists. In cases where the jaw or bones surrounding the teeth are affected, craniofacial surgeons and specialists may work with orthodontists to repair damage.

The most common type of dental injury is the loss of a tooth. If a tooth is knocked out due to an injury, it may be possible for a dental surgeon to reattach it. Make sure to not wipe it off and drop it in a cup of milk to transport to the dentist’s office.

Plastic Surgery

In very severe cases, plastic surgery may be necessary to repair cosmetic damage caused by craniofacial trauma. In these cases, your child’s doctor will guide you on the best and most appropriate options available.