Last Updated July 29th, 2019
When we chew or speak, we usually move our lower jaw to some degree. When we yawn we open our lower jaw to its fullest possible extent. The lower jaw or mandible is connected to the temporal bone of the skull at two points, one on either side of the face. These joints are known as the temporomandibular joints. The name references the two main bones that make up the joint. You can feel this joint just in front of the lower half of your ear. It works like a hinge, allowing your lower jaw to glide up and down smoothly.
What Is A Dislocated Jaw?
When one of the bones that form joint slips out of its natural position, this is known as a dislocation. The temporomandibular joints, too, sometimes suffer from dislocation. This may be caused by injury to the jaw. Alternatively, the mandible or the lower jaw may stretch too far when you yawn very wide and this can cause dislocation of the joint. One or both of the joints may become dislocated.
A dislocated jaw can be quite painful and distressing too. The patient may be unable to close their mouth normally and the jaw may be angled awkwardly. As a result, the patient is unable to bite, chew and speak normally. Resetting a dislocated jaw is easy for a trained professional to do and it can be done quickly. However, further treatment may be needed depending on the actual cause of the condition.
What Is Responsible For It?
- An injury is one of the most common causes of jaw dislocation. This includes accidents or even injuries from contact sports.
- You may be surprised to discover that even something as simple as opening your mouth extremely wide while yawning can cause your jaw to become dislocated.
- In some instances, the dislocation may have to do with an existing problem known as the temporomandibular joint disorder.
- Grinding your teeth all the time is a risk factor for the temporomandibular joint disorder.
- On the other hand, you may be suffering from arthritis in this particular joint.
How Can I Recognise A Dislocated Jaw?
Have you recently suffered an injury to the face, particularly the jaw? Are you finding it difficult to close your mouth and speak normally? Do you feel as if your jaw is literally ‘locked’ into an open position? Are you experiencing pain in the jaw and drooling as well? If you answered these questions in the affirmative, you may, in fact, be suffering from a dislocated jaw.
There are four main positions in which the dislocation can take place. These are anterior, posterior, superior and lateral positions. The anterior dislocation is the most commonly encountered type.
Here are the signs of jaw dislocation:
- Inability to align your teeth as you normally do.
- The jaw hangs wide open.
- The jaw may be jutting outwards.
- It feels stiff and locked in position.
- Pain that worsens with movement.
Should One Be Concerned About Complications?
Having a dislocated jaw can be painful. Being unable to move your jaw normally can be a very uncomfortable feeling and the resulting inability to breathe or chew or speak normally can be very distressing too. One of the main risks with jaw dislocation is that the patient may struggle to breathe. Hence, it is recommended to take the patient to a doctor as soon as possible.
Treatment and Prevention
When somebody suffers an injury or feels the inability to move their jaw normally, they should be taken to a hospital promptly. While the dislocation in itself is not a medical emergency, there can be some complications as we have just seen. There is a risk that the patient may be unable to breathe because of the dislocation of their jaw. Hence, the most prudent course of action is to take the patient to a doctor who will reset the dislocated bone expertly and quickly. Unless you are a trained medical professional, it is recommended that you avoid attempting to reset the jaw yourself. Instead, you may help by bandaging the jaw until the patient is able to meet the doctor. This will help to stabilize it and prevent further damage.
The combination of symptoms and the description of events leading up to them will most likely enable the doctor to correctly diagnose the problem. A local anesthetic may be administered in order to numb the pain. Some patients may need muscle relaxants as well. The doctor will then be able to snap the dislocated bone back into its designated position with a straightforward maneuver.
It is recommended that after the dislocated jaw has been reset, the patient should avoid opening their mouth too wide for the next couple of weeks. In fact, the patient may need to continue wearing a bandage to stabilize the jaw for some time afterward. In case that the patient experiences repeated episodes of jaw dislocation, he or she may require surgery to rectify the problem once and for all.
Dislocation of a joint is not a serious problem in itself. It is usually a fairly simple matter for experienced and trained professionals to reset the dislocated bone. However, in the case of the jaw, complications may arise when the inability to control jaw movement interferes with normal breathing.
- Owing to the U-shape of the lower jaw, it is more vulnerable to injuries and half of the times it will fracture in multiple places.
- Though it is most commonly caused by a trauma or physical impact, a dislocated jaw can also happen due to non-trauma reasons too such as chewing.
- Chewing and yawning are the leading causes of non-traumatic jaw dislocations.
- Dental procedures, vomiting, and even certain surgeries are responsible for jaw dislocations non-trauma type
- The severely dislocated jaw can cause temporary loss of consciousness and vision.
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Dos and Don'ts
- In case of the injury occurs, keep your lower jaw still at one position with the help of a cloth bandage, till the help arrives.
- Apply ice to the point of injury. It will provide instant relief from the pain.
- If the wound causes bleeding inside the mouth, rinse the blood with cold water.
- Refer to a doctor if the swelling in the jaws after injury doesn’t subside within 24-48 hours.
- Consume fibrous and chewy food items. Prefer soft foods or liquids.
- Attempt to cure the dislocated jaw by yourself. Always let the physician handle the setting of jthe aw.
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