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V.N. Okoje, T.O. Aladelusi, and T.A. Abimbola

Department of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery, University College Hospital, Ibadan


Aim: The study presents a case series which evaluates the presentation, management and outcome of TMJ dislocation in a tertiary health centre in Nigeria.

Materials and methods: Case review of 11 patients with TMJ dislocation seen in the University College Hospital (UCH) Ibadan over a period of 10 years. The criteria for the diagnosis of TMJ dislocation were based on history, clinical examination and radiologic findings.

Results: Mean age of patients was 44.4 years (SD +/-15.9years); age range was 25-65 years with 4 males and 7 females. Aetiology was trauma in 4 cases, wide mouth opening in 6 cases and unknown in a patient. There were 7 acute presentations, 2 recurrences and 2 chronic presentations; bilateral anterior presentation in 10 cases, unilateral (right) anterior presentation in 1 case. 4 of the acute cases were successfully managed using the Hippocrates manoeuvre, 1 had the manoeuvre under GA, and 2 had spontaneous reduction. All recurrent cases were successfully managed with the Hippocrates manoeuvre and IMF. Fifty percent of the chronic cases were successfully managed with the Hippocrates manoeuvre. Follow up was < 2 weeks in 7 of the cases.

Conclusion: The pattern of presentation of TMJ dislocation in the above named hospital was anterior dislocation, the female gender predominance, aetiology of wide mouth opening, as well as early presentation. A conservative method of management – the Hippocrates manoeuvre – was effective in most cases irrespective of duration of dislocation. Most patients had a poor attitude to follow up.

Keywords: Temporomandibular joint, Dislocation, Conservative management


Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) is a bilateral synovial articulation between the condyle of the mandible and glenoid fossa of the temporal bone. It is a bi-arthroidal hinge joint that allows the complex movements necessary for mastication, deglutition, talking and yawning. It is one of the most complex as well as most utilized joints in the human body. 1

In certain situations, when the condylar head goes beyond the glenoid fossa in either an anterior, posterior, medial, lateral, or superior direction, a TMJ dislocation results. The principles for diagnosis and treatment of TMJ dislocation were proposed by Sir Astley Cooper who introduced the terms complete dislocation (luxation) and imperfect dislocation (subluxation) in 1932.2 These terms have been further expantiated upon or discussed by several authors. TMJ dislocation (“Open lock”) is a painful condition in which there is complete displacement of the mandibular condyles from its articulating surface within the glenoid fossa, this displacement is not reduce-able by the patient, hence necessitating presentation in the hospital3. Subluxation, however refers to a condition in which the joint is transiently displaced without complete loss of the articulating function, and is usually self-reduced by the patient2. TMJ subluxation and dislocation though uncommon, accounting for less than 3% of all reported dislocated joint in the body,2 and are very unpleasant and distressing conditions to patients.4


Despite a variety of classification systems, temporomandibular joint dislocation is most commonly divided into three categories: acute, chronic persistent, and chronic recurrent.3 Acute dislocations could be spontaneous but it is usually associated with aetiologies, including excessive mouth opening during vomiting, yawning, laughing and singing; forceful mouth opening for endotracheal intubation; and prolonged mouth opening during a lengthy dental/ENT procedure and endoscopy. There have also been reports of acute dislocation following seizures, trauma and spasm of the masseter, temporalis, and internal pterygoid muscles resulting in trismus thus preventing return of the condyle to the temporal fossa.

Patients with TMJ dislocation often present with inability to close the mouth, depression of the preauricular area, severe pain in the TMJ region and associated muscles, hypersalivation, elongation of facial profile, tension of muscles of mastication, amongst others.2 Acute TMJ dislocation is associated with more severe limitation in jaw functions. This is alarming to the patients prompting early presentation usually within the first day of occurrence, as seen in majority of the patients in this study. Patients with history of recurrence also presented very early probably due to an awareness of where to seek health care services. This finding is similar to reports by Ugboko et al which suggested that early presentation is due to the discomfort and disfigurement encountered by the patients.4 Acute dislocations are typically isolated events, which when managed appropriately, usually have no long-term sequelae.5

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