Jaw Dislocation

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)
  • Dental treatments
  • Intubation associated with surgery
  • Trauma to the jaw
  • TMJ arthritis
  • General ligament laxity


Symptoms of a dislocated jaw

  • Inability to close/open your mouth
  • Pain – worse with jaw movement
  • Difficulty speaking
  • Drooling
  • 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.

After the TMJ has been reduced, a Pivotal Motion physiotherapist can speed recovery and ease pain. Physiotherapy treatment may involve:

  • Education on preventing future dislocations
  • Types of foods to avoid
  • Jaw positions to avoid
  • Correcting jaw alignment
  • Addressing weak or tight muscles
  • Individualised home exercise program
  • Treatment of your neck to assist with positioning

TMJ dysfunction is a special interest to our principle physiotherapist Bobbie-Jo Strong and she will be eager to help with your recovery. Call  07 3352 5116 to book a consultation or book online today.

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