Identifying and Treating a Dislocated Jaw or Fractured Mandible
A dislocated jaw can result from a traumatic jaw injury, bruxing your teeth, or a congenital jaw issue. Dislocation of the upper or lower jaw can cause jaw popping, chewing pain, and breathing and speaking problems. Fixing some cases of jaw dislocation requires corrective jaw surgery, while non-invasive treatments can correct others. Learn how to identify, treat, and prevent jaw injuries, dislocation, and mandibular fractures.
How to Treat a Dislocated Jaw and Prevent Jaw Injuries
Fall, automobile accidents, physical altercations, and sports-related injuries are the most common causes of a dislocated jaw. Dislocation can occur on the upper or lower jaw or both and often coincides with damage to your teeth. Likewise, bruxism can result in jaw dislocation over time and possibly lead to temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorder. Most cases of bruxism or TMJ disorder are correctable through non-invasive treatments. In severe cases of jaw injury, it might be necessary to correct the positioning and restore natural function to the jaw through surgery.
4 Tips for Preventing Jaw Injuries and Dislocation
You can take measures to reduce your risk of a jaw injury and prevent dislocation. You can work to amend your unhealthy habits by becoming aware of them. If needed, your oral surgeon offers devices and therapies to prevent damage to your jaw, TMJ, and dental health.
Tip #1: Avoid misusing your teeth.
Your teeth are for chewing food, and misuse can easily result in jaw dislocation and dental damage. Never use your teeth to open bottles or anything else that might cause oral trauma.
Tip #2: Use a mouthguard when playing sports.
Trauma to your teeth often results in jaw damage, especially when playing sports. A mouthguard limits damage to your teeth, reducing jaw stress.
Tip #3: Remove fall risks from your living space.
Falls are a common cause of jaw injury for many patients. Creating an environment free of fall risks will limit your likelihood of incurring an injury around your home. Secure loose rugs to the floor and install railings on staircases. Place grip tape on your shower or bathtub floor to avoid slipping.
Tip #4: Manage stress to stop bruxing.
Grinding your teeth during the night might be caused by stress and can lead to jaw and tooth damage over time. Stress management can reduce and eliminate bruxing, including therapy, exercise, and deep breathing.
How to Tell if You Have a Jaw Injury
Pain and discomfort are the primary symptoms of an injured, fractured, or dislocated jaw. Addressing a jaw injury as soon as possible is essential to avoid further damage. If you recently experienced physical trauma, check yourself for the signs and symptoms of a dislocated or fractured jaw:
- Do you have pain when opening or closing your jaw?
- Is the pain getting worse over time?
- Have you lost any of your teeth?
- Do you have swelling or bruising on either side of your face?
If you answer “yes” to the above questions, contact your oral surgeon to determine if you have jaw injuries. Failing to seek medical attention can result in infection, jawbone resorption, and gum disease.
Do you have a dislocated jaw?
You can injure your jaw without dislocating it. A dislocated jaw exhibits different symptoms than that of a fracture. Jaw dislocation often results in:
- Pain when opening or closing the jaw
- Difficulty chewing
- Speech problems
- Occlusal misalignment (abnormal bite)
- Developing an overbite
Jaw dislocation often results in significant pain or discomfort, increasing over time if left untreated. If you have a dislocated jaw, seek medical attention as soon as possible to avoid infection and long-term damage to your health. A jaw injury is treated as an emergency and requires corrective treatment.
Treatment Options for Jaw Dislocation and Mandibular Injuries
Your oral surgeon can sometimes correct jaw dislocation without surgery. In some cases, the jaw will heal on its own after being manipulated back into the correct position, while other cases require surgery to fasten the jaw while it recovers. Your oral surgeon will administer a sedative to reduce the pain and a muscle relaxant to calm your muscles.
You may also avoid surgery if the fracture is a clean break, unlike cases with multiple jaw fractures. A clean break can heal without surgery, whereas multiple jaw fractures require corrective surgery. In both cases, your surgeon must immobilize the jaw during the healing process. Your oral surgeon will wire or bandage your jaw to temporarily limit the extent to which you can open your mouth while the jaw heals.
Recovering from a Dislocated or Fractured Jaw
Recovering from corrective surgery for a dislocated or fractured jaw takes at least six weeks, during which time you will adhere to a liquid and limited soft food diet. While on a liquid and soft diet, most of your nutrients will come from smoothies, nutritional supplements, and pureed foods. About a week or two into your recovery, try eating soft pasta, rice, canned fruit, and soup.
In cases where jaw surgery is necessary, recovery can take up to six months. Patients with jaw fractures or dislocation that does not require surgery frequently have a shorter recovery of between four to eight weeks. Once the jaw heals, patients are at a higher risk of dislocating their jaw in the future. If you think your jaw is fractured or dislocated, call our office immediately to schedule an examination to avoid further damage and restore your natural jaw function.