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Subluxation of the Jaw

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The jaw

Our jaw has two opposable structures: the maxillary and the mandible. These bones make up the entire mouth.  

The upper jaw, or maxilla, is more or less fixed to the skeleton.


The term "jaws" is also applied in a broad sense to the structures constituting the roof of the mouth and serving to open and close it.


The jaw represents the chewing joint that links the mandible and the skull.


It remains a joint like any other, with 2 articular surfaces that move on each other with the help of muscles and stabilized by ligaments. 


The jaw also has a disc, a gelatinous cushion, which increases the stability and fluidity of movement.


The subluxation of the joints


Joints are areas of contact between two bones. They allow the movements of our body. But under certain circumstances, one of them can dislocate. 


This pathology is characterized by the partial or temporary exaggerated displacement of one articular surface in relation to another. This implies a decentralization of the articular disc.


Several structures will therefore be stretched, which will cause abnormal contact at the joint itself. A joint may be limited in its range of motion by various structures, such as ligaments, bones or muscles. When the contact is maintained in a partial way, we speak of subluxation. This is how a joint that exceeds its normal anatomical range of motion causes injury to the surrounding structures.


This phenomenon can occur in any joint of the body, but is most commonly seen in the shoulder, hip, knee, elbow, ankle, spine, fingers and toes.


In the case of the jaw, the disc would be more likely to move forward. 

This causes a decrease in the space between the condyle of the mandible and the fossa of the skull. When the condyle moves forward in a pronounced way, the ligaments stretch and hold it back. These ligaments send a pain signal. This implies a decentralization of the articular disc.


A crackling sound can be heard both when the disc comes out of its joint and when it goes back in. 


This cracking can occur with or without pain. It is common to observe a deviation of the jaw towards the problematic side during the opening. This leads to a muscular imbalance that can create muscular tension on the side involved, mainly the masseter muscle responsible for mastication and the pterygoid muscle, which is useful in light movements from left to right.


Causes of subluxation


Various reasons can explain the subluxation of a joint:


  • A malformation

  • Trauma: a blow, a fall or a car accident can destabilize the joint

  • Sports injuries

  • A genetic disease (Ehlers-Danlos syndrome of the hypermobile type)

  • Osteoarthritis and arthritis

  • Diseases of neuromuscular origin (poliomyelitis, spina bifida, cerebral palsy, etc.)

  • Dental disorders (in the case of the jaw), facial deformity and misalignment of the upper and lower teeth

Symptoms related to subluxation


Subluxation can manifest itself in a variable manner depending on the location of the joint.

It can usually cause:


  • Aches and pains

  • A deformation of the joint

  • A difficulty in mobilizing the joint

  • A daily inconvenience

Temporomandibular disorder (TMD)


A jaw-related problem is called temporomandibular disorder (TMD) because it is related to the temporomandibular joint (TMJ).


To allow the opening of the mouth and the proper functioning of the jaw, the left and right TMJ must work at the same time.

If the movement of these two joints is not coordinated, the disc that separates the lower jaw from the skull can shift and cause problems. 


TMJ dislocation can occur if the mouth is opened too quickly or forced excessively. In addition, tightness and muscle pain around the jaws often occur due to overworked muscles from clenching or grinding of the teeth caused by psychological tension or overuse. 


Extreme tightness in the jaws can also lead to pain in the temples. The reason for this pain is that the muscles that move the jaw are also attached to a bone in the skull near the jaws. Excessive chewing of gum or biting with force, such as cracking nuts with your teeth, can also strain the TMJ and cause pain.


The TMJs open, close, slide forward, backward and side to side. During chewing, they are under enormous pressure. As with other joints, the surfaces of the TMJ are covered with cartilage. 


Like the knee, the two parts of the jaw joint are separated by a small disc, the meniscus, which prevents the bones from rubbing against each other. The muscles that open and close the mouth also help stabilize these joints, located about ½ inch (1.25 cm) in front of each ear canal.


The TMJs and the muscles surrounding them are subject to various disorders, which occur most often in people between the ages of 20 and 50. 

In most cases, TMJ dysfunction is due to muscle tension, anatomical problems and injuries. Sometimes there can also be a psychological component, such as stress.


Like all joints, TMJs can be affected by osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis and other inflammatory disorders. 

In rare cases, tumors can develop in this area. But for most people, pain in the TMJ area is not serious. The discomfort and pain can be temporary or chronic.


Main symptoms of TMD


Jaw subluxation is the result of a malfunction of the temporomandibular joints, which can result in several symptoms:



  • Cracking of the jaw with or without pain

  • A stabbing pain in the front of the ear;

  • Sand noises in the joint (or the impression of hearing through a plug)

  • Jaw locks or deviations in the opening and closing of the mouth

  • Sensitivity during jaw movements

  • Pain in the facial muscles when chewing

  • Neck or shoulder pain

  • Headaches

  • Neuralgia in the face

  • Excessive tearing of the eyes

  • Throat irritation


Most of the time, poor functioning of the chewing muscles can cause jaw subluxation. Also, bad habits such as nail biting and chewing on nuts or ice cubes with your teeth can contribute to this problem.


In addition, misalignment of the vertebrae of the cervical spine can cause nerve impulses to control the muscles of mastication unevenly causing increased demand on the jaw joints.


As mentioned above, this problem can occur as a result of direct trauma either during sports or in a car accident. However, the cause can be as simple as biting into an apple. It is not uncommon to see a complete dislocation or subluxation of the jaw following an attempt to close the jaw with the mouth wide open. 


In fact, in this position the disc slides to the front end of the joint and all the ligaments are stretched to their full capacity. This reduces the stability and strength of the joint which increases the risk of injury.


The pain often appears on one side of the face, and can sometimes occur near the joint rather than within it. The pain and tightness may occur upon awakening, or during and after a period of stress. 


These symptoms are explained by muscle spasms resulting from the repeated clenching of muscles or teeth or grinding of teeth. People often grind their teeth in their sleep without being aware of it, and these movements exert much more force than during periods of wakefulness.


What chiropractic can do for jaw subluxation


Many people with temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorders recover without treatment. 


THowever, some Precise and delicate manual techniques exist to diagnose and treat TMD at a chiropractor.


In fact, chiropractic adjustments to the jaw and neck are manipulations that aim to eliminate painful points in the muscles of mastication. 


Your chiropractor recommends personalized exercises designed to correct jaw deviations. Cold or heat therapies are also recommended to reduce pain.



Source: Association des Chiropraticiens du Québec


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