A broken or dislocated jaw is an injury to one or both of the joints that connect your lower jawbone to the skull. Each of these joints is called the temporomandibular joint (TMJ). The TMJ can break, crack, or become unhinged from the skull. The unhinging of the jaw joint is known as a dislocation.

Experiencing facial trauma is the primary cause of a broken or dislocated jaw. The jawbone extends from your chin to behind your ear. Common types of injury that can cause fractures or dislocations in the jawbone are:

  • physical assault in the face
  • sports injuries
  • vehicle accidents
  • accidental falls in the home
  • industrial or workplace accidents

Pain, swelling, and bleeding are the most immediate symptoms of a broken jaw. Your entire face can swell, making your jaw painful and stiff. Bleeding from the mouth can occur, causing breathing difficulties in some people. The blood flow can block your airways. You may experience the most pain and tenderness when chewing or speaking. If you have a severe jaw fracture, you might experience limited ability to move your jaw or be unable to move your jaw at all.

The signs of a dislocated jaw can be different than those of a broken jaw. Pain is a factor, and it may become worse when you move your mouth or your body. Additional signs of a dislocated jaw include the following:

  • Your jaw might appear to jut out too much, as in an overbite.
  • You might notice that your teeth don’t line up as they usually do and your bite feels strange.
  • An abnormal bite can prevent you from closing your mouth completely, and this might cause drooling.
  • Speaking may be difficult.

A doctor must manipulate a dislocated jaw back into the correct position. Sometimes your doctor can do this manually. You’ll receive local anesthetics and muscle relaxants to minimize the pain and to help your jaw muscles loosen up enough to allow the manipulation. In some cases, surgery may be necessary to set the TMJ back into the normal position.