A dislocated jaw, also known as dislocated mandible in medical terms, is a facial injury that causes the lower part of the jaw to move out of its place at one or both joints. It is a very painful condition that forces the mouth to open in a locked position, which is very difficult to close.
The jawbone is the only movable part of the face. It is connected to the skull by a hinged joint called the temporomandibular joint. When the bones are moved out of place or beyond the range of motion, dislocation of the jaw occurs. When the jaw gets dislocated, the muscles start tightening, preventing the mouth from closing. It could also lead to complications like blockage of the airway, jaw pain, pain in the teeth, bleeding, and difficulty in eating.
The most common cause of dislocated jaw is trauma or injury to the face. It can be a result of an industrial accident, motor vehicle accident, or a sports injury. It can also be a result of opening the mouth too wide for yawning, yelling, vomiting, or biting on some food. Dislocation of the jaw usually occurs in people who have joint hypermobility, or those who have had previous dislocations.
The signs and symptoms associated with a dislocated jaw are as follows:
- Inability to open and close the mouth
- Pain in the jaw line or teeth
- Swollen jaw
- Difficulty in speaking
- Protruding jaws
- Abnormal alignment of teeth
- Stiffness in the jaw
- Numbness of the face
- Bleeding under the jaw skin
A dislocated or broken jaw is an acute condition that requires immediate medical attention. It is a serious condition because of the risk of bleeding and airway blockage. Here are some first aid tips, in case you come across such a situation.
First Aid: The most important thing to keep in mind is to hold the jaw gently in place. Do not try to relocate or move the jaw. A bandage could be wrapped over the top of the head and under the jaw to support the jaw. Apply an ice pack to relieve the dislocated jaw pain and swelling. Check for the normal signs of circulation. If the person stops breathing, immediately start cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). Call for medical assistance as soon as possible.
A health care provider can move the affected jawbone back to its position. Numbing medications or anesthesia may be needed in some cases to relax the jaw muscles for manipulation of the jaw. Once the jaw is relocated in its place, it should be bandaged to keep the mouth from opening too wide. A normal dislocated jaw can be fixed back manually by the doctor.
But if the condition is worse or in case of recurrent dislocations, surgery is required to fasten the joints. A procedure known as eminectomy is carried out in patients. It involves removal of the articular eminence, so that the ball of the joint does not get stuck in front of it. The broken jaw joint is put in place and the ligaments are tightened by medication.
After the joint is reset, proper care needs to be taken for several weeks. A liquid diet is mostly recommended for some days, to minimize movement and stress. The mouth should not be opened wide for about 5 weeks, and care has to be taken while yawning and sneezing. The treatment involves wiring to keep the joints in place, and this can lead to gums and jawbone infections. So, extra care needs to be taken.
Dislocated jaw treatment is often painful and the pain in the temporomandibular joint remains for several days. Keeping all this in mind, it becomes important to make sure that such situations are avoided. Exercise your jaws frequently to strengthen your jaw muscles.