✓ Evidence Based

Broken or Dislocated Jaw – Types, Symptoms, Treatment, and More

Broken or fractured jaws are a common type of traumatic injury. Fractures involving the lower jaw are one of the most frequent and complex types of injury. These injuries are commonly found in children and account for 45-95% of all the injuries in the facial skeletal complex. Jaw dislocations on the other hand are less frequent and are often seen with individuals who have TMD. It occurs in up to 7% of people during their lifetimes and accounts for 3% of all bodily dislocations (1).

What is a broken or dislocated Jaw?

A broken or dislocated jaw involves trauma to the mandible. The mandible is known as the lower jaw. Broken jaws or fractures are often due to trauma (2). A dislocated jaw typically occurs when the mandibular bone is displaced in one or more of the Temporomandibular Joints (3). This can happen for a variety of reasons.


Let’s discuss the classification of Mandibular Jaw fractures (Broken Jaw) and Jaw Dislocations.

Broken Jaw

Mandibular Jaw fractures (Broken Jaw) are classified by their location (4). These classifications include the following.

  • Symphysis/Parasymphysis – fractures of the frontal, central part of the mandible
  • Body – fractures in the main horizontal portion of the mandible
  • Angle – fractures at the angle where the jaw curves upward
  • Ramus – fractures in the vertical extension of the jawbone
  • Condyle – fractures near the mandibular joints
  • Coronoid – rare fractures in the coronoid process of the mandible

Dislocated Jaw

Dislocations are classified based on their direction (5). These classifications include the following.

  • Anterior
  • Posterior
  • Superior
  • Lateral

Dislocations are also often described as unilateral or bilateral, meaning the dislocation involves one joint or both joints (6).


A broken jaw and a dislocated jaw share many similar symptoms, but there are some symptoms that can help you differentiate.

Broken Jaw

Symptoms of a broken jaw may include:

  • Pain in the face or jaw area
  • Discomfort when moving the jaw, such as while opening the mouth or chewing
  • Facial bruising and swelling
  • Jaw stiffness and difficulty in movement
  • Teeth that appear dislodged
  • Numbness in the face
  • Jaw shifting to one side when opening the mouth

It’s important to note that facial trauma severe enough to break the jaw may also affect other areas of the face.

Dislocated Jaw

Symptoms of a dislocated jaw typically include:

  • Pain in the face or jaw region
  • Misalignment between the lower and upper parts of the jaw
  • Stiffness and difficulty in jaw movement
  • Inability to close the mouth properly
  • Development of an overbite or underbite

Understanding these differences can help in identifying the nature of the jaw injury and seeking appropriate medical attention (7).


Let’s discuss the various treatment options for Jaw fractures (Broken Jaw) and Jaw Dislocations.

Broken (Fractured jaw) Treatment

Treatment modalities can vary based on the type of trauma encountered. Fracture type and severity will commonly determine what treatment is most recommended.

Intermaxillary fixation (8)

For fractures that are less severe in nature, intermaxillary fixation may be recommended (9, 10). IMF is a technique that reduces and stabilizes the fracture. If IMF is the only treatment, it is referred to as a closed reduction (11). The jaw remains immobile after arch bars or self-tapping screws are applied and held together with rubber bands or wires.

Surgical intervention

Surgery may be suggested for more severe fractures. When displacement is severe or when alignment is necessary surgery may be the recommended treatment option. The surgeon will put metal plates or bars in the broken area to hold the fractured pieces together (12, 13).

External fixation

External fixation is a technique utilized when open treatment is contraindicated. This system uses surgically placed threaded pints and connects to help reduce the fractures. This technique may be used when there is extensive comminution, bone or soft tissue loss, and infection (14).

Dislocated Jaw Treatment

Dislocated jaw treatment can include a combination of manual repositioning, supportive care, and in some cases surgery. The treatment will depend on the severity of the dislocation (15).

Manual Repositioning

A closed reduction involves manually repositioning the jaw back into place. It is usually performed with local anesthesia or some light sedation to help reduce discomfort. The Nelaton maneuver is the most common one that involves a practitioner placing their thumbs inside the patient’s mouth on their lower molars and pushes down and back to reposition the jaw (16).

Supportive Care

Supportive care will include immobilization, pain management, and dietary restrictions. After you reposition the jaw you may need to immobilize it with a bandage or sling. You may be instructed to take analgesics and anti-inflammatory medication to help with pain management. Your diet may need to be adjusted for several days as wel l. This may include a liquid or soft diet. Supportive care may also include physical therapy. This includes exercises to help regain normal jaw movements (17).

Surgical Intervention

Surgery may be indicated for dislocations that continue to recur, structural abnormalities, or if the jaw cannot be reset via manual repositioning. The surgery may repair the joint or ligaments around the temporomandibular joint. Surgery may be done via open surgery or arthroscopy, which is more minimally invasive (18, 19). The type of surgery will depend on the severity of the dislocation.

Risk Factors

Several risk factors can lead to jaw fracture and dislocation. These factors include trauma. Trauma can be induced by an accident, such as a motor vehicle accident, or due to violence, such as an altercation (20). Alcohol consumption and smoking can affect the risk of a fracture (21). Some research has indicated alcohol consumption and smoking can affect bone density, making you more susceptible to fractures and breaks. Malocclusion can also affect your risk of fractures and dislocations. Severe malocclusion can affect your jaw health and, if not corrected, can put you at a higher risk of a dislocation or fracture upon impact.


Diagnosing a jaw fracture and dislocation usually involves a clinical exam and imaging. Imaging will likely be in the form of an X-ray or CT scan (22). The combination of the exam and imaging will allow the provider to make the best treatment option. It is important to note multiple images may need to be taken if the fracture is not visible with one modality of imaging or if the fracture appears complex.


Not all fractures and dislocations may be preventable. In the case of an accident, the fracture may be unavoidable. However, as an individual, you can minimize risk by wearing proper gear if playing on contact sports (23). You can also reduce your risk by engaging in less risky activities. Getting proper treatment for malocclusion can help reduce your risk as well.


A broken or dislocated jaw involves trauma to the mandible, the lower jawbone. Mandibular fractures are often caused by trauma and are classified by their location. Dislocations occur when the jawbone is displaced in the temporomandibular joints and can be classified by direction and whether they are unilateral or bilateral. Treatments for fractures include intermaxillary fixation, surgical intervention, and external fixation, depending on severity. Dislocated jaws are treated through manual repositioning, supportive care, and possibly surgery for severe or recurrent cases. Risk factors for these injuries include trauma, alcohol consumption, smoking, and malocclusion. Diagnosis typically involves a clinical exam and imaging such as X-rays or CT scans. Preventative measures include wearing protective gear during contact sports and avoiding high-risk activities.