The Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ) is located in front of the lower part of the ear. It allows the lower jaw to move. It’s a ball and socket joint like the shoulder or hip. When the mouth opens wide the condyle (ball) comes out of socket and moves forward. Then as the mouth closes it slides back into place.
It’s possible for the TMJ to become dislocated. This happens most often when the lower jaw is extended too far causing the ligaments that keep the condyle in place to become weak and loose. This allows the condyle to push too far forward, all the way past a section of bone known as the Articular Eminence (AE). The surrounding muscles spasm allowing the condyle to become stuck in front of the AE. Unable to return to its place the condyle renders the jaw locked in an open position.
Symptoms of a dislocated TMJ range from simple discomfort in the jaw to blurred vision and neck pain. Other symptoms include neck pain ear pain and headaches. TMJ dislocation can be easily diagnosed with a simple x-ray and can easily be corrected by a dentist, physician or other qualified personnel.
TMJ treatment is essentially performed by injecting anesthesia into the condyle. This is generally followed by a muscle relaxer given intravenously. The muscles are then relaxed enough for a dentist or physician to pull the lower jaw downward and tilt the chin upward dislodging the condyle. Once free ir can be directed into its proper place.
Although, some cases are more severe and require surgery. Surgery is required on cases that repeatedly dislocate. This is usually treated by wiring the jaw shut for a short period preventing movement. This strengthens the ligaments that hold the condyle in place. Other cases require a procedure called an Eminectomy, or removal of the AE bone that traps the condyle.
A few ways to prevent TMJ dislocation is to restrict the movement of the lower jaw, or place a fist under the chin holding pressure when yawning. The outlook for a successful treatment of this injury is excellent. There should be no problem with this uncomfortable dental emergency.