Jaw Dislocation and the Risk of TMJ Disorder

Jaw dislocation is an injury to one or both the temporomandibular joints that attach the lower jawbone to the skull.

If you dislocate your jaw, you’ll have facial pain, your bite will be misaligned and you may not be able to close your mouth. An experienced oral surgeon can correct the problem, but you may develop ongoing issues with the temporomandibular joints, a condition known as TMJ disorder.

Jaw dislocation can cause TMJ disorder

An Oral Surgeon Can Correct a Dislocated Jaw

Treating a jaw dislocation is usually a relatively simple process that involves manual manipulation of the lower jawbone. However, the procedure requires the skill of an oral surgeon or another experienced health care provider.

After taking X-rays to confirm the jaw dislocation, the oral surgeon will use local anesthetic and muscle relaxant medication to relieve pain and loosen the facial muscles. Next, using the thumbs, the surgeon moves the dislocated jaw back into the correct position and takes an X-ray to ensure the treatment was successful. Finally, the jaw is bandaged to prevent the mouth from opening too widely.

In some cases, however, stabilizing the temporomandibular joints requires oral surgery. This is often the case with repeated dislocations.

Jaw Dislocation Can Lead to TMJ Disorder

For most patients who experience a jaw dislocation, the short-term prognosis is good. As long as the jawbone is kept stable and movement is limited, the injury should heal in about four to eight weeks.

The long-term outlook is not as rosy. For many patients, jaw dislocation leads to recurring pain and problems in the temporomandibular joints. Although TMJ disorder is not preventable, the chance of developing the condition can be minimized with proper care.

To relieve stress on the temporomandibular joints, oral surgeons recommend:

  • Taking smaller bites
  • Chewing on both sides of the mouth
  • Skipping hard, sticky and chewy foods
  • Avoiding clenching and grinding the teeth
  • Gently massaging the jaw muscles
  • Supporting the chin when yawning
  • Not using the teeth as tools

TMJ Disorder Treatment Options

Reducing stress on the temporomandibular joints can decrease the risk of TMJ disorder, but it doesn’t eliminate the possibility of developing the condition.

After healing from a dislocated jaw, patients should schedule a follow-up consultation with an oral surgeon. At this appointment, the surgeon can analyze their jaw structure and movement pattern to determine the likelihood of TMJ disorder.

If the temporomandibular joints are expected to have ongoing problems, creating a treatment plan is the next step. Often, this involves the same stress-relieving measures listed above, though some patients may require a stabilization splint or mouthguard. Treating TMJ disorder may also involve other conservative therapies, such as transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) or trigger-point injections.

In cases of persistent temporomandibular joint problems and recurrent jaw dislocations, oral surgery can be an effective solution.

For expert treatment in the greater Salt Lake City area, call on the professional team at Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery of Utah.

Dr. Partridge and Dr. Maxfield, our highly skilled oral surgeons, have extensive expertise treating conditions of the jaw, mouth and head. If you suffer a jaw dislocation or need help managing TMJ disorder, trust your care to Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery of Utah.