Disfiguring facial and dental injuries in car accidents: What is it and what to do?

According to Transport Canada's NCDB (National Collision Database) which, in collaboration with the Canadian Council of Motor Transport Administrators, are the bodies mandated to collect statistics on all motor vehicle collisions in the country from all the territories and provinces, 2015 saw 1,858 motor-vehicle related fatalities and 10,280 serious injuries.

Although there has been a decrease in facial injuries resulting from motor vehicle collisions in Canada due to improvements in restraints, motor vehicle safety features, and general body compositions of vehicles, these are still among the most common motor vehicle injuries. Facial injuries are primarily caused by:

  • Airbags
  • Steering wheel
  • Dashboard
  • Side windows
  • Windshield
  • Shattered glass and torn metal
  • Car seats
  • Burns

Many accident victims, however, neglect to properly treat their dental injuries, mostly because they concentrate on other more severe injuries. The injuries may cause further damage when left untreated.

Dental injuries can be direct or indirect, depending on the impact sustained. Direct injuries occur when there is direct trauma to the head, mouth, or teeth and can result in dental implants while indirect injuries occur when an open mouth is abruptly closed, causing the upper jaw teeth to crush into the lower jaw teeth.

Common Facial and Dental Injuries

Avulsed tooth: An avulsed tooth is one that has been completely knocked out of its socket. When this happens, and if you are in a position to do so, pick it up by the crown and put it in a plastic container filled with saliva, whole milk, or a saline solution. It must be re-attached within 2 hours after the accident if the tooth’s roots are to survive.

Fractured teeth: As the term suggests, this refers to teeth that have been fractured due to dental trauma. These fractures are categorized into Ellis I, II, and III.

  • Ellis I fractures affect the crown, extending through the enamel and leading to rough edges with no tenderness or visible color change.
  • Ellis II fractures affect both the enamel and the dentin layers and lead to tenderness upon air exposure or touch as well as yellowing of the dentin.
  • Ellis III fractures involve the pulp, dentin, and enamel and have similar sensitivity as Ellis II injuries, the only difference being a visible region of pink, red, or even blood on the center of the teeth.

Tooth luxation: This is a tooth that is loosened, but has not been completely knocked out, causing the tooth to move back and forth as well as sideways. Restorative dentistry involves forcing the tooth back into its socket after confirmation that there is no further damage such as chipping under the gum.

Fractures: The face has over 12 bones, including eye sockets, nose, forehead, and cheekbones. Fractures on any of these bones are very common.

Lacerations: If there is impact on the head and it does not lead to a fracture, it will cause lacerations. These are deep cuts to the face that often require cosmetic surgery.

Eye injuries: The impact could lead to an eye injury. This can lead to the loss of an eye or partial or full loss of vision. Retinal tear is common where an airbag is involved. Airbags can be dangerous because of how quickly they deploy, the composition inside them, and whether or not the driver/passenger was wearing a seatbelt.

Burn injuries: Some car accidents cause explosions. In such cases, burn injuries to the face area are common and quite serious. They often require cosmetic surgery and skin grafts, but even with this care they often leave the victim with drastic and permanent scars.

Soft tissue injuries: If the impact is not too big (or alongside other more serious injuries), soft tissue injuries are very common. These injuries, which can be bruises, lacerations, or contusions, affect the cartilage, ligaments, muscles, tendons, and other fibrous tissues supporting, surrounding, or connecting the facial structures. Soft tissue injuries, despite the name, are very serious and they often lead to loss of facial function. They usually require complex surgical procedures to repair.

What to do after Facial and Dental Injuries

You should seek immediate treatment because studies show that patients who have suffered facial trauma have unique psychological needs. Patients usually report symptoms of anxiety, depression, PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), and social withdrawal.

Under Canadian law, you are entitled to compensation should you get injured as a result a car accident. The compensation covers, among other things, treatment for the sustained injuries. You should do this before the statute of limitation expires. The statute of limitation on car accidents varies from one province to the next.

Once you are involved in an accident, contact a personal injury lawyer immediately. Wagner is a personal injury law firm operating in Halifax, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island and the surrounding areas. The law firm focuses on personal injury cases, among them auto accidents cases.

A lawyer will advise you on whether you should file a claim with the insurance company or file a lawsuit in court. They will also advise on how much you should accept in compensation.

A great benefit of hiring a personal injury lawyer is that he/she will have the experience and training necessary to do thorough investigations. Failure to do proper investigations may lead to the throwing out of the case.

Hiring a lawyer gives you sufficient time to recuperate from your injuries. Failure to take adequate rest could prolong the pain and the healing period. Hiring a lawyer also gives you peace of mind knowing that someone is looking after your interests.

Raymond F. Wagner, Q.C. is the founder of Wagners - a Serious Injury Law Firm. With over 35 years' experience, he has restricted his practice to representing those who are harmed through the negligence of individuals, companies and government bodies. Mr. Wagner's legal practice has a primary focus on class actions, mass tort litigation, medical negligence, product liability and catastrophic motor vehicle accident cases.