(See also Introduction to Urgent Dental Problems.)
A dislocated jaw (dislocated mandible) generally is very painful. The mouth cannot be closed, and the jaw may be twisted to one side. A dislocated jaw is occasionally caused by an injury but is typically caused by opening the mouth excessively wide (such as during yawning, biting into a large sandwich, vomiting, or during a dental procedure).
Dislocation is more likely to occur in people who have had previous dislocations or who have looseness of the jaw (hypermobility), which may result from temporomandibular disorders.
A doctor or dentist typically maneuvers the jaw back into place by hand (manual reduction).
Putting a Dislocated Jaw Back in Place
Once the jaw is back in place, doctors sometimes apply a Barton bandage (see Figure: Barton Bandage) to limit the motion of the jaw to prevent another dislocation while the inflammation in the jaw joint resolves. Also, people are cautioned to avoid opening the mouth wide for at least 6 weeks. When anticipating a yawn, people should place a fist under their chin to prevent it from opening wide. People must cut their food into small pieces. For people who have had more than one dislocation, surgery may be needed to reduce the risk of further dislocations. For instance, the ligaments connecting the jaw to the skull (at the temporomandibular joint) can be shortened, thereby tightening the joint.