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  /  Head   /  TMJ Dislocation

TMJ Dislocation

Jaw dislocation, also known as temporomandibular joint (TMJ) dislocation, is a condition where the lower jawbone (mandible) becomes displaced from its normal position at the temporomandibular joint. This can result in significant discomfort, impaired function, and a need for medical intervention.

Anatomy of the Jaw

The jaw consists of the mandible (lower jaw) and the maxilla (upper jaw). The mandible is connected to the skull by the temporomandibular joints (TMJs) located just in front of each ear. These joints allow the jaw to move smoothly up and down and side to side, enabling activities such as chewing, speaking, and yawning. The TMJ is a complex joint involving bones, cartilage, muscles, ligaments, and a small disc that acts as a cushion between the bones.

Causes of Jaw Dislocation

Jaw dislocation can occur due to several reasons, including:

  • Trauma: A direct blow to the face, such as from a fall, sports injury, or car accident.
  • Excessive Mouth Opening: Yawning widely, laughing, vomiting, or dental procedures can sometimes cause dislocation.
  • Connective Tissue Disorders: Conditions like Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, which affect connective tissues, can increase the risk of dislocation.
  • Previous Dislocations: Having a history of jaw dislocations can make the joint more prone to future episodes.

Symptoms of Jaw Dislocation

The symptoms of a dislocated jaw include:

  • Pain: Severe pain in the jaw and face, particularly around the TMJ area.
  • Difficulty Closing the Mouth: The jaw may be stuck in an open position.
  • Facial Asymmetry: The jaw appears to be out of alignment.
  • Difficulty Speaking and Eating: Impaired ability to perform normal mouth functions.
  • Swelling and Bruising: Around the jaw area.

Risk Factors for Jaw Dislocation

Several factors can increase the risk of jaw dislocation:

  • High-Risk Activities: Engaging in contact sports or activities with a high risk of facial trauma.
  • Genetic Factors: Inherited connective tissue disorders.
  • Age: Younger individuals may have more elastic ligaments, which can contribute to instability.
  • Gender: Women may be at higher risk due to hormonal differences affecting ligament laxity.

Treatment of Jaw Dislocation

Treatment for a dislocated jaw typically involves both immediate and longer-term measures:

  • Manual Reduction: A healthcare professional may need to manually manipulate the jaw back into place.
  • Pain Relief: Medications to manage pain and reduce inflammation.
  • Immobilization: Using a bandage or sling to support the jaw and limit movement.
  • Surgery: In severe or recurrent cases, surgical intervention may be necessary to repair or stabilize the joint

Physical Therapy for Jaw Dislocation

Physical therapy is an essential component of the recovery process for patients with jaw dislocation. It aims to improve the functionality and stability of the temporomandibular joint (TMJ), reduce pain, and prevent future dislocations. A tailored physical therapy program can help strengthen the muscles around the TMJ, enhance joint mobility, and restore normal movement patterns.

  • Goals of Physical Therapy

    1. Pain Reduction: Alleviating acute and chronic pain associated with jaw dislocation.
    2. Improved Mobility: Restoring normal range of motion in the jaw.
    3. Strengthening Muscles: Building strength in the muscles that support the TMJ.
    4. Enhancing Stability: Increasing the stability of the TMJ to prevent future dislocations.
    5. Improving Functionality: Facilitating normal jaw functions such as chewing, speaking, and yawning.
  • Step-by-Step Exercises

    • Warm-Up Exercises

Before starting any exercises, it’s important to perform a gentle warm-up to prepare the muscles and joints. This can include:

      • Gentle Jaw Massage: Use your fingertips to massage the muscles around the jaw and cheeks in a circular motion for 1-2 minutes.
      • Heat Application: Apply a warm, moist towel to the jaw area for 5-10 minutes to relax the muscles.
    • Jaw Opening and Closing
      • Technique:
        • Sit or stand with good posture.
        • Place your tongue on the roof of your mouth behind your front teeth.
        • Slowly open your mouth as wide as possible without causing pain.
        • Close your mouth slowly and repeat 10 times.
      • Purpose: To improve the range of motion and coordination of the jaw muscles.
    • Side-to-Side Jaw Movements
      • Technique:
        • Sit or stand with good posture.
        • Gently move your jaw to the left as far as comfortable.
        • Hold for 5 seconds, then move to the right.
        • Perform 10 repetitions on each side.
      • Purpose: To enhance lateral mobility and flexibility of the TMJ.
    • Resistance Exercises
      • Technique:
        • Place your thumb under your chin.
        • Gently push upwards while trying to open your mouth.
        • Hold for 5 seconds and then relax.
        • Repeat 5 times.
      • Purpose: To strengthen the muscles that control the opening of the jaw.
    • Jaw Retraction
      • Technique:
        • Place your fingers on your chin.
        • Gently push backwards while pulling your jaw back.
        • Hold for 5 seconds, then release.
        • Perform 5 repetitions.
      • Purpose: To strengthen the muscles that retract the jaw, promoting better alignment.
    • Stretching Exercises
      • Technique:
        • Open your mouth as wide as comfortable and hold for 5-10 seconds.
        • Perform 5-10 repetitions.
      • Purpose: To stretch and lengthen the jaw muscles, improving flexibility.
    • Tongue Up Exercise
      • Technique:
        • With your mouth slightly open, place your tongue on the roof of your mouth.
        • Slowly open and close your mouth while keeping your tongue in place.
        • Repeat 10 times.
      • Purpose: To promote proper jaw alignment and movement patterns.
    • Chin Tucks
      • Technique:
        • Sit or stand with good posture.
        • Tuck your chin in towards your neck without tilting your head down.
        • Hold for 5 seconds, then relax.
        • Repeat 10 times.
      • Purpose: To strengthen the muscles in the front of the neck and improve posture.
  • Additional Techniques
    • Isometric Exercises:
      • Lateral Resistance: Place your hand on the side of your jaw and push gently while resisting the movement. Hold for 5 seconds, then switch sides. Repeat 5 times on each side.
      • Forward Resistance: Place your hand on the front of your chin and push gently while resisting the movement. Hold for 5 seconds, then relax. Repeat 5 times.
    • Range of Motion Exercises:
      • Circular Jaw Movements: Move your jaw in a circular motion, first clockwise, then counterclockwise. Perform 5 repetitions in each direction.
  • Monitoring Progress

It is important to track the progress of physical therapy to ensure that the exercises are effective and to make any necessary adjustments. Patients should:

    • Keep a Journal: Record daily exercises, noting any pain, discomfort, or improvements.
    • Regular Check-Ins: Schedule regular appointments with a physical therapist to assess progress and modify the exercise regimen as needed.
  • Additional Tips
    • Consistency: Perform exercises regularly as prescribed to achieve the best results.
    • Avoid Overexertion: Do not push through pain. If an exercise causes discomfort, stop and consult with a physical therapist.
    • Proper Posture: Maintain good posture during exercises and daily activities to reduce strain on the TMJ.


  1. National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research: “TMJ Disorders.”
  2. American Dental Association: “Temporomandibular Joint Dysfunction.”
  3. Mayo Clinic: “TMJ Disorders.”
  4. Journal of Oral Rehabilitation: Articles on the management and treatment of TMJ disorders.
  5. Physical Therapy Guidelines for TMJ Disorders: Published by professional physical therapy associations.