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Reduction of temporomandibular joint (TMJ) dislocation

Donna Reyes Mendez, MD
Section Editors
Anne M Stack, MD
Ann Griffen, DDS, MS
Allan B Wolfson, MD
Deputy Editor
James F Wiley, II, MD, MPH


This topic will review the evaluation and reduction of TMJ dislocations. The evaluation and management of pediatric dental injuries and jaw fractures are discussed separately. (See "Evaluation and management of dental injuries in children" and "Jaw fractures in children" and "Facial trauma in adults".)


Anterior TMJ dislocation commonly follows extreme opening of the mouth (eg, during eating, yawning, laughing, singing, kissing, vomiting, or dental treatment) and less often occurs after trauma [1-3]. Dislocation also can result from dystonic reactions to drugs, seizures, or tetanus infection [4,5]. In addition, iatrogenic dislocation during anesthesia induction and upper endoscopy have been described [6,7]. Symmetric mandibular dislocation is most common, but unilateral dislocation with the jaw deviating to the opposite side can also occur.

Superior and posterior dislocations of the TMJ are rare and usually associated with trauma [8]. Superior dislocations occur in association with mandibular fossa fractures. Posterior dislocations may be associated with disruption of the external auditory canal or fracture of the temporal plate.


Patients prone to mandibular dislocation include those with an anatomic mismatch between the fossa and articular eminence, weakness of the capsule and the temporomandibular ligaments (eg, patients with Ehlers-Danlos or Marfan syndrome), and torn ligaments. Patients who have had one episode of dislocation are predisposed to recurrence [9].


The TMJ consists of the articulation of the temporal and mandibular bones (figure 1). TMJ dislocation occurs when the condyle travels anteriorly along the articular eminence and becomes locked in the anterior superior aspect of the eminence, preventing closure of the mouth (figure 2) [3]. Dislocation results in stretching of the ligaments, and is associated with severe spasm of the muscles that open and close the mouth (ie, the masseter, medial pterygoid, and temporalis) (figure 3) [10,11]. The resultant trismus prevents the condyle from returning to the mandibular fossa.


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Literature review current through: Sep 2015. | This topic last updated: Sep 9, 2015.
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