Where There Is No Dentist 2012 113
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
• She cannot close her lips
• Her lower jaw looks long
• 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.
1. Find a way to support the person’s head. For example, have the person
sit on the floor with her head against a wall.
2. 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.
3. Support the jaw with a head–and–chin
bandage for 3 to 4 days (page 110).
4. Give aspirin or acetominophen for pain (page 94).
5. 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 (page 107).