What to do when the jaw is dislocated? Common causes, typical symptoms, pain and how to set your jaw again in this comprehensive guide.

Whether it’s from yawning or even from an accident, dislocating your jaw happens pretty quickly.

  • The symptoms are usually clear in this case.
  • The treatment is also quite simple and even feasible by yourself.

Nevertheless, toothache also radiates into the jaw and it will be difficult for you to accurately assess the cause without experience.

How you can tell if you have dislocated your jaw and what you can do about it, I explain in this guide.

Dislocated your jaw while yawning?

The most common causes of a dislocated jaw are trauma impact (blow, fall) as well as heavy yawning.

But it can also happen when you open your mouth too wide while eating (for example, a thick sandwich).

jaw dislocated while yawning

Quickly happens and one of the most common causes: you dislocate your jaw while yawning.

In some circumstances, your jaw can also dislocate during dental work that requires you to keep your mouth wide open for a long time.

Note: Some people with particularly loose jaw joints are more prone to dislocations.

If you have had problems with a dislocated jaw in the past, then further occurrences may also be more common for you.

There is a distinction to be made between dislocated jaws and jaw cracking. If you’re unsure which really applies to you, take a look at our guide to jaw cracking.

Jaw dislocation: symptoms & signs

The symptoms for a dislocated jaw – known in the trade as mandibular dislocation – are often clearly identifiable.

jaw dislocated symptoms

But in some cases, additional checks, such as an X-ray, may be necessary.

You can recognize the most common symptoms of a dislocated jaw by:

  • The jaw is misaligned on one side or both sides.
  • You can no longer close your mouth.
  • The jaw protrudes forward – similar to an “underbite”.
  • You have moderate pain when you move, but it subsides when you hold your jaw still.

The jaw is stabilized by bony joint heads located in sockets. In a dislocated jaw, these little heads have slipped out of the socket and can no longer be moved into it.

In such a case, the jaw is stabilized only by the muscles and ligaments. Therefore, pain occurs primarily during movement, which subsides somewhat after some time of rest.

Typical pain in a dislocated jaw

The pain is mainly caused by the overstressed muscles and ligaments that stabilize the jaw alone. This causes them to overstretch in one direction.

jaw dislocated

In addition, headaches can occur because many of the jaw muscles also lead up to the ears and are not solely responsible for the jaw.

Due to the cause of this pain (overworked muscles), you may continue to experience pain in the form of sore muscles for a short time after treatment.

Swelling due to the strain may also continue to bother you for some time.

By cooling the affected areas, you will counteract the swelling and relieve some of the pain.

Info: But your jaw can also hurt for completely different reasons. Read more in the guide to jaw pain.

Return jaw: treatment

The treatment is kept relatively simple, and you can do it yourself if you already have experience with a dislocated jaw.

However, if you are not familiar with dislocating the jaw, a trained dentist or chiropractor can re-adjust your jaw

jaw dislocated treatment

If you are unsure, you should always ask your doctor for advice.

Under no circumstances should you try to force the jaw shut. You risk additional injuries here otherwise!

The treatment in 3 steps:

  • With the thumbs, the lower molars are pressed down.
  • Simultaneously, the lower jaw is lifted up with the remaining fingers.
  • The rotation moves the temporomandibular joints back into their sockets.

The entire process takes only a few seconds, but it can hurt a bit. This is because the muscles are stretched a little here until the jaw returns to its position.

Your doctor may put what’s called a Barton brace on you to put pressure on the jaw to prevent it from dislocating again during the healing phase.

What happens after treatment?

Once you dislocate your jaw, there is a higher risk that you will dislocate it again.

jaw dislocated

Don’t overwork your jaw after it’s been reset. Better to take it easy and be careful not to open your mouth too wide.

During the healing phase, avoid opening your mouth too wide.

  • When a yawn is imminent, hold a fist under your chin and apply a little counterpressure to prevent your mouth from opening too wide when you yawn.
  • An inflammation should heal relatively quickly and usually does not require medication.
  • However, if the pain is uncomfortable for you, medications with an anti-inflammatory (anti-inflammatory) effect, such as ibuprofen, are recommended here.

I advise you to discuss any medication in advance with your attending physician regarding duration and dose.

Operative measures for frequent incidents

Dislocating the jaw stretches the ligaments – there is a higher likelihood that you will dislocate the jaw again in the future

jaw dislocated

In some cases, it may also be appropriate to surgically shorten the jaw ligaments. However, this is independent of the actual setting of the jaw.

If you have had problems with your jaw several times in the past, one of the things you can do is to take steps to reduce this risk.

For example, you can have surgery to shorten your mandibular ligaments so that your jaw has less slack again.

However, I don’t think surgery is necessary until you have dislocated your jaw more often. However, it’s best to talk to your doctor about it.

Conclusion

A dislocated jaw is often caused by yawning, but it can also be the result of a fall or blunt force trauma.

You can also dislocate your jaw during prolonged dental work.

jaw dislocated

Don’t worry if you have dislocated your jaw. Treatment is simple and quick, and it usually doesn’t lead to long-term restrictions either.

With the right technique, you can also reset your jaw yourself.

  • If you are uncomfortable or inexperienced with this, dentists and chiropractors can offer to reset your jaw in seconds.
  • After that, you will need some time for any swelling and inflammation to heal. A sore muscle may also appear.

If you have frequent incidents, you are more inclined to dislocate your jaw again in the future.

In some circumstances, a doctor may surgically shorten your ligaments so that there is less slack in your lower jaw. However, in many cases, this surgery is not necessary.