A jaw dislocation can be a very painful injury and impact your function greatly.
What is a dislocated jaw?
A dislocated jaw (temporomandibular joint) happens when themandibular condylar process moves out of the glenoid fossa and is unable to return. So, the mandible comes out of what we think of as the ‘TMJ’. The joint can dislocate sideways, upwards, forwards, or backwards. The most common is an anterior (forward) dislocation where the mandibular condylar process comes in front of the articular eminence and cannot return to its normal position.
Dislocations can happen once or can reoccur several times to one or both TMJ joints at a time.
What causes a dislocated jaw?
Like any other joint, problems happen when joint structures (disc, ligaments, muscles, bones) don’t work correctly or are damaged. Sometimes this results in a dislocated jaw. Some causes of these structural or functional changes include:
Wide opening of the mouth (yawning, laughing, big bite of food, vomiting, seizures)
Intubation associated with surgery
Trauma to the jaw
General ligament laxity
Symptoms of a dislocated jaw
Inability to close/open your mouth
Pain – worse with jaw movement
Misalignment of the jaw, lips, and/or teeth
What will treatment for a dislocated jaw involve?
If your TMJ is still dislocated and can’t return to its normal position, it will need to be reduced (put the joint back in its normal position) by a doctor in hospital. Following this, you may be sore for several weeks. The recovery from TMJ fracture can be lengthy and should be guided by a doctor and your physiotherapist.