You've been dealing with temporomandibular jaw (TMJ) disorder for so long that you never imagined you might one day need an emergency appointment for this condition. Now, you're afraid you might have somehow dislocated your jaw. Should you go to the emergency room at a hospital or to a dental clinic that accepts emergency patients? Dentists can provide effective treatment if you actually have dislocated this joint.
How a Dislocated Jaw Occurs
If you have a dislocated jaw, the ball of the joint has come out of the socket, just as a shoulder becomes dislocated if the joint ball leaves the socket. It typically happens if you open your mouth too wide or move your lower jawbone too far to the side. Having TMJ disorder is a risk factor for this occurrence.
Dislocated Jaw Symptoms
The definitive symptom of a dislocated jaw is not being able to close your mouth -- or at least finding it difficult to do so.
As with a dislocated shoulder, the episode may be uncomfortable but not hurt very much -- or, in contrast, it can be excruciatingly painful.
Dislocated Jaw Treatment
Your dentist can confirm the diagnosis with X-rays, but that may not be necessary if your symptoms make the dislocation obvious.
Muscle spasms keep a dislocated jaw from relaxing. Injecting local anesthesia into the jaw calms those spasms. You also may need to have a muscle relaxant supplied intravenously. Once your jaw is fully relaxed, the dentist can guide the ball back into the socket.
Your dentist will provide you with instructions of what to do at home. Eating only soft food for a week or even longer may be advisable. If there is substantial inflammation in the joint area, you may benefit from wearing a specialized bandage to stabilize your jaw and taking anti-inflammatory medication.
Prevention of Future Episodes
You can prevent a dislocated jaw in the future -- and also prevent painful TMJ disorder episodes -- by concentrating on not opening your mouth excessively wide or moving your lower jawbone sideways.
When you yawn, for instance, put a hand under your jaw to stop your mouth from automatically opening wide. When you chomp into an apple or a cob of sweet corn, open your mouth only an inch or so wide rather than taking a huge bite. You may feel as though you're nibbling like a mouse, but that strategy can prevent painful episodes.
What Can You Do Now?
Don't hesitate to seek emergency treatment if you have symptoms of a dislocated jaw. You could make the situation worse if you do nothing and hope the situation resolves itself. A dentist can treat the immediate problem relatively quickly. From then on, it's a matter of being gentle with your jaw and taking preventive measures. For more information, contact a clinic such as Larchmont Dental Arts LLC.