Dislocation of the Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ)
What Is It?
The TMJ becomes dislocated when the condyle moves too far. Then, it can get stuck in front of a section of bone called the articular eminence. The condyle can't move back into place. This happens most often when the ligaments that normally keep the condyle in place are somewhat loose. The surrounding muscles often go into spasm and hold the condyle in the dislocated position.
Conservative surgical treatments can help to prevent the problem from returning. Some people have their jaws wired shut for a period of time. This causes the ligaments to get tighter and restricts their movement.
In certain cases, surgery may be necessary. One procedure is called an eminectomy. It removes the articular eminence so the ball of the joint no longer gets stuck in front of it. Another procedure makes the eminence larger to prevent dislocation. Sometimes it's also possible to tighten the TMJ ligaments with an injection of medicine.
If the jaw muscles are relaxed enough, a doctor or dentist can move the condyle back into the correct position. He or she will pull the lower jaw downward and tip the chin upward to free the condyle. Then the ball is guided back into the socket.
Rarely, someone may need to have the dislocation fixed in the operating room under a general anesthetic. In this case, it may be necessary to wire the jaws shut or use elastics between the top and bottom teeth to limit the movement of the jaw.
You should follow a soft or liquid diet several days afterward. This reduces jaw movement and stress. Avoid foods that are hard to chew, such as tough meats, carrots, hard candies or ice cubes. Also, be careful not to open your mouth too wide.
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