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 typically caused by the following:
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 a temporomandibular disorder.
A doctor or dentist typically maneuvers the jaw back into place by hand (manual reduction).
Once the jaw is back in place, doctors sometimes apply a Barton bandage (see Fig. 2: Urgent Dental Problems: Barton's Bandage) 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.
Last full review/revision December 2012 by David F. Murchison, DDS, MMS