Hesperian Health Guides
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If a person opens her mouth wide and then is unable to close it, we say her jaw is dislocated. It is stuck in the open position. This problem often happens to a person who does not have several of her back teeth. When she opens wide to yawn or shout, the part of her jaw that joins her head moves too far forward inside the joint. It is then unable to return to its normal position. You can also dislocate the lower jaw by accident while extracting a tooth.
- She is unable to close her teeth together.
- She cannot close her lips easily.
- Her lower jaw looks long and pointed.
- It hurts when you press on the joint in front of her ear.
- She cannot speak clearly.
The treatment is to try to move the lower jaw back where it belongs. Then hold it in that position until the muscles can relax.
- Find a way to support the person’s head. For example, have the person sit on the floor with her head against a wall.
Kneel in front of her. Put your fingers under her jaw, outside the mouth. Put your thumbs beside her last molar tooth on each side. Do not put your thumbs on the molars. The person may bite them!
Press down hard with the ends of your thumbs. Force the jaw to move quickly down and back into position. Be sure to press down before you press back.
If the jaw will not move, perhaps the muscles are too tight. A doctor or dentist can put the person to sleep, which will relax the muscles.
Support the jaw with a head–and–chin bandage for
3 to 4 days.
- Give aspirin or acetominophen for pain.
- Explain the problem to the person and tell her how to care for her jaw: (a) eat mostly soft foods for 2 weeks; (b) hold a warm wet cloth against the jaw; (c) remember not to open the mouth wide anymore. If possible, replace the missing back teeth with dentures.