Many people think that temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ) begins with some major event. It’s easy to look back on a car crash or a blow to the jaw and see the cause of your dislocated jaw, but the cause of your jaw problems isn’t always something so dramatic. In fact, many jaw dislocations begin with normal activities that you do every day.
The Most Common Causes of Jaw Dislocation
Many jaw dislocations are caused by traumatic events, but nontraumatic jaw dislocations are far more common. A recent study suggests that nearly 94% of all jaw dislocations are nontraumatic. And of these nontraumatic dislocations, the most common cause is something you do with your jaw several times a day: chewing. Chewing is the cause of nearly two-thirds of all nontraumatic jaw dislocations. The second most common cause is yawning. Together, these two causes account for about 90% of all nontraumatic jaw dislocations.
Other reported causes of jaw dislocation without trauma include situations where the mouth opens wide, such as dental extractions, vomiting, and surgical procedures. Dental extractions often require a dentist to open your jaw wider because they need better access and more leverage. However, any dental procedure can potentially lead to jaw dislocation. Since wisdom teeth extraction is the most common extraction performed on young people, early onset TMJ is more likely to be linked to this procedure than other tooth extractions.
General anesthesia can lead to dislocation of the jaw because of intubation, the insertion of a breathing tube to sustain breathing with artificial respiration. But endoscopic procedures that use the mouth as an entry point can also cause dislocations.
Opening and Closing Can Both Cause Problems
There are many ways that your jaw can be dislocated during normal everyday activities. One is that you simply open your jaw too wide. This forces the jaw joint, and especially the cushioning disk in the jaw joint, out of place.
Another problem is returning from the wide open position. If your muscles don’t follow the proper sequence, your jaw won’t go back into its proper position. It’s like trying to refold a large, complicated map. If you do all the folds in the right order, the map folds back into its original compact form. But if you don’t follow the right sequence, the map turns into a jumbled mess. And once you get the folds out of order, they may never fold right again.
The problem with opening and closing your jaw is that we don’t have the same level of control over how the muscles work to refold the jaw. It happens automatically. Frequently, your jaw muscles don’t work in the proper order because one or more of them is experiencing spasms from tension and overwork.
TMJ Treatment Can Help
Often, these dislocations happen over and over again, resulting in jaw pain, locked jaw, and other symptoms. This is because once your jaw has been dislocated, it may not want to fold again properly. Or perhaps muscle tension is causing spasms that lead to jaw dislocations.
It’s important to not force your jaw to open or close if it’s become locked. Forcing the jaw can cause injury to the jaw joints, which will lead to worse problems in the future.
TMJ treatment can help by retraining your jaw so that it follows the proper sequence for folding again. It can also reduce muscle tension and spasms to prevent future dislocations.