The temporomandibular joint, often called TMJ, is the hinge of your jaw. It connects the temporal bone, a part of your skull, to your lower mandible, the lower jawbone. Like other joints in your body, your TMJ can become dislocated due to injury. Here are five things you need to know about this painful dental injury.
How can TMJ dislocation occur?
You can dislocate your TMJ joint by opening your mouth too wide and pushing the joint past its normal range of motion. Things like yawning or vomiting can lead to dislocation, as can eating if you need to open your mouth very wide to accommodate you. This injury can also occur as a result of trauma, like falling and landing on your face or being involved in a car accident.
What are the signs of TMJ dislocation?
When you dislocate your TMJ, you may feel a strange popping or cracking noise from your jaw. After the injury, you will have trouble opening and closing your mouth. You may feel pain around the area of your jaw joint, and you may also have pain in your neck or a headache. Your bite may feel strange as your teeth won't line up the same way as they did before your joint was dislocated. Any of these signs are cause for concern and should be evaluated by your dentist right away.
How is this injury treated?
The best treatment for TMJ dislocation is immediate reduction; if you wait to seek treatment, it will be harder for your dentist to fix your joint. Reduction is a medical term that means to put the dislocated joint back in its proper place.
There are two ways that reduction can be performed. The first type is closed reduction. Closed reduction is a non-surgical treatment. Your dentist will guide your bones back into the right place by applying pressure with their hands. To do this, your dentist will put their thumbs on your molars and then push firmly to guide your jaw backwards into the correct location.
Open reduction is the other option. This is a surgical procedure that involves making an incision in the side of your face to directly access the jaw joint and move the bones back into place. Both of these procedures require anesthesia as forcing the bones back into place is painful, even during non-surgical treatment.
What is the prognosis for this injury?
The prognosis for people with TMJ dislocation is good, especially if treatment is sought right away. Chronic dislocations (more than one month old) are harder for dentists to treat, but treatment is still possible. If the dislocation isn't treated in time, you may end up with permanent problems with your bite alignment.
It's possible for you to suffer from chronic pain in your TMJ after this injury. Other possible problems include instability of the joint or ligament damage in the area. Due to the risk of these problems, you'll need to see your dentist for a follow-up appointment so that your dentist can make sure you're healing properly.
Is TMJ dislocation a common injury?
TMJ dislocations are fairly rare. According to one study, an emergency room with 100,000 annual visits only saw 37 cases of TMJ dislocations over a seven-year period. However, this doesn't take into account the number of people who went directly to their dentist instead of to the hospital, so the real prevalence rate may be higher.
If you dislocate your temporomandibular joint, make sure to get treatment immediately, because if you wait, it's harder for a dentist to repair your injury. If you have specific questions about your jaw and how it relates to oral health, get in touch with a dentist from a clinic like Claremont Dental Institute.