Is a Broken or Dislocated Jaw?
A broken or dislocated jaw is an injury to the one or both
of the joints that connect your lower jawbone to the skull. Each of these
joints is called the temporomandibular joint (TMJ). The TMJ can break, crack,
or become unhinged from the skull. The unhinging of the jaw joint is known as a
A broken, fractured, or dislocated jaw can create problems
with eating and breathing. Immediate medical attention is necessary to minimize
complications and accelerate healing.
of a Broken or Dislocated Jaw
Experiencing facial trauma is the primary cause of a broken
or dislocated jaw. The jawbone extends from your chin to behind your ear.
Common types of injury that can cause fractures or dislocations in the jawbone
- physical assault in the face
- sports injuries
- vehicle accidents
- accidental falls in the home
- industrial or workplace accidents
of a Broken or Dislocated Jaw
Pain, swelling, and bleeding are the most immediate symptoms
of a broken jaw. Your entire face can swell, making your jaw painful and stiff.
Bleeding from the mouth can occur, causing breathing difficulties in some
people. The blood flow can block your airways. You may experience the most pain
and tenderness when chewing or speaking. If you have a severe jaw fracture, you
might experience limited ability to move your jaw or be unable to move your jaw
Numbness and bruising in the face and gums are also normal
to have if your jaw is fractured or broken. Breaking the bone can cause other
abnormalities with the shape of your face. You might notice that your jaw or
face has a lumpy appearance. The impact of your injury could also cause
loosened or lost teeth.
The signs of a dislocated jaw can be different than those of
a broken jaw. Pain is a factor, and it may become worse when you move your
mouth or your body. Additional signs of a dislocated jaw include the following:
- Your jaw might appear abnormal by jutting out
too much, as in an overbite.
- You might notice that your teeth don’t line up
normally and your bite feels strange.
- An abnormal bite can prevent you from closing
your mouth completely, and this might cause drooling.
- Speaking may be difficult.
a Broken or Dislocated Jaw
Your doctor will diagnose a broken jaw or dislocation by
asking you your history, doing a physical exam, and taking relevant X-rays.
for Jaw Injuries
If you injure your jaw, it will most likely be treated as an
emergency. While waiting for medical care, support your lower jaw to help
stabilize it and keep your airway open.
Treating a Dislocated Jaw
A doctor must manipulate a dislocated jaw back into the
correct position. Sometimes your doctor can do this manually. You’ll receive
local anesthetics and muscle relaxants to minimize the pain and to help your
jaw muscles loosen up enough to allow the manipulation. In some cases, surgery
may be necessary to set the TMJ back into the normal position.
Treating a Broken Jaw
Treatment for a jaw fracture or break might also require
surgery, depending on the extent of the injury. Clean breaks may heal on their
own while your jaw is immobilized. Multiple fractures of the jawbone or displaced
breaks in the part of the bone that’s pushed off to one side may require surgical
Wiring Your Jaw Shut
Broken and dislocated jaws are bandaged or wired shut during
Your doctor may treat your dislocation and minor fracture
simply by wrapping a bandage around your head and under your chin to keep you
from opening your jaw wide. Anti-inflammatory medications such as ibuprofen
(Advil, Motrin) and naproxen (Aleve) can dull the pain and reduce swelling.
Severe breaks might require wiring to promote healing. Wires
and elastic bands keep your jaw closed and your bite in place. Keep a pair of
scissors or wire cutters in your home during your recovery. The tools will
allow you to open the wires if you suffer from vomiting or choking. If the
wires need to be cut, notify your doctor so they can replace the wires as soon
Recovery from a jaw fracture or dislocation requires
patience. You won’t be able to open your jaw very wide or at all for at least six
weeks during treatment. Your doctor will prescribe painkillers and antibiotics
to prevent infection. You’ll also be on a liquid diet to provide you with
nutrition during this time while you’re unable to chew solid food.
Diet for a Broken or Dislocated Jaw
You will need to follow a soft diet as you recover from a
dislocated or broken jaw. Avoid foods that are crunchy or chewy if you suffer
from a dislocation or minor fracture that will heal on its own. Items such as
fresh meats, raw produce, or crunchy snack foods can cause strain and pain to
your healing jaw. A soft diet that includes the following can be easy to chew:
- canned meat
- well-cooked pasta
- well-cooked rice
- canned fruit
A wired jaw will need an even more drastic dietary change.
Because you won’t be able to open and close your mouth, you’ll need to get your
daily allowance of vitamins and minerals through a straw during your recovery.
Getting enough calories can be a concern for some jaw injury patients. Pureed
foods prepared with whole milk or cream can help add calories when needed.
Pureeing fruits, vegetables, and well-cooked meats can give you the protein and
other nutrients you need to stay healthy. You can use oatmeal, cream of wheat,
and other soft grains as the base for your meals.
Healthy eating while your jaw is wired means eating more
frequently than you’re probably used to doing. Instead of eating three or four
meals per day, aim for six to eight small meals. Eating small amounts
throughout the day helps you meet your required calorie count. Smaller, more
frequent meals can also provide a variety of flavors when you’re drinking eight
smoothies each day.
Drink milk and juice to boost your calorie count. Cut back
on water, coffee, tea, and diet soda. These beverages have no calories. They will
not help you sustain your weight while you’re on a restrictive diet.
Eat lukewarm foods. Your teeth may be more sensitive than
usual after your injury, and extreme temperatures on either side of the
spectrum can hurt. Consider choosing baby food to accommodate your need for
vitamins. Use water or milk to thin heavier soups, gravies, or jarred foods if
their consistency is too thick to get through a straw.
The outlook is very good for most people who suffer from
broken or dislocated jaws. In most cases, the jaw heals successfully and there
are few long-term effects.
However, you’re more likely to suffer from recurring joint
pain in your jaw after your injury. This is a condition called
temporomandibular joint disorder, which is also referred to as TMJ disorder.
People who have dislocated their jaw may have an increased risk of a future
dislocation as well. Protect your jaw from future pain or injury by supporting
your chin when you sneeze or yawn.