Jaw Dislocation

The jawbone (mandible) is connected to the skull by a hinge joint in front of each ear. This hinge is called the temporomandibular joint (TMJ). When the mandible has come out of the joint, this means it has been dislocated. 


Anything that causes extreme opening of the mouth can cause a jaw dislocation. This includes:

  • Eating
  • Yawning
  • Laughing
  • Vomiting
  • Kissing
  • Dental treatment
  • Trauma


  • Inability to close the mouth
  • Pain
  • Drooling
  • Trouble speaking

Right after a dislocation, the jaw muscles often go into spasm. This prevents the jawbone from sliding back into the joint. To treat this, a healthcare provider must guide the mandible back into the joint. IV (intravenous) medicines are often used to reduce the muscle spasm and keep you comfortable.

You may be given a bandage or soft collar. This is to keep your mouth from opening widely.

You may have another jaw dislocation. You are more at risk during the next 6 weeks. It takes this long for the ligaments that support the joint to heal. Repeated jaw dislocation may cause arthritis and chronic pain at the joint. In these cases, surgery may be needed to prevent more dislocations.

Home care

  • To reduce pain and swelling, put an ice pack over the injured area for 10 to 20 minutes. Do this every 1 to 2 hours for the first day. Keep using an ice pack 3 to 4 times a day until the pain and swelling goes away. To make an ice pack, put ice cubes in a plastic bag that seals at the top. Wrap the bag in a clean, thin towel or cloth. Never put ice or an ice pack directly on the skin.
  • You can take acetaminophen or ibuprofen for pain, unless you were given a different pain medicine to use. Talk with your healthcare provider before using these medicines if you have chronic liver or kidney disease, have ever had a stomach ulcer or gastrointestinal bleeding, or are taking blood-thinning medicines. Don’t give aspirin to a child younger than age 19 unless directed by the child’s provider. Taking aspirin can put a child at risk for Reye syndrome. This is a rare but very serious disorder that most often affects the brain and the liver.
  • For the first week, eat only soft foods. These include gelatin, cooked cereal, ice cream, applesauce, bananas, eggs, pasta, cottage cheese, soups, and yogurt.
  • For the next 6 weeks, don’t open your mouth wide. Try not to bite large pieces of food, scream or yell, sing, or call out loudly.
  • Also be careful when you yawn. If you need to yawn, put your fist under your chin to prevent your mouth from opening too wide.

Follow-up care

Follow up with your healthcare provider, or as advised. If X-rays were taken, they will be reviewed by a specialist. You will be told the results, and if they affect your treatment.

Call 911

Call 911 if you have any of these:

  • Trouble breathing or swallowing
  • Wheezing
  • Confusion
  • Extreme drowsiness or trouble awakening
  • Fainting or loss of consciousness
  • Rapid heart rate

When to seek medical advice

Call your healthcare provider right away you have if any of these:

  • Jaw pain not relieved by the pain medicine
  • Inability to close your mouth fully (recurrent dislocation)