Dislocation Station

My journey through a dislocated jaw.

Joshua Beck


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Take it from me: dislocating your jaw is not fun. And I’ve had the (dis)pleasure of doing it twice.

The first time was in 2017; it was late at night, I opened my mouth too wide, and it stuck. Prior to that, I’d had some occasional clicking in my jaw when I yawned really wide or something, and a few times it felt painful, but I’d never not been able to close my mouth before. I knew instantly that this was different.

I don’t remember a lot of that experience. We went to the ER and had to wait most of the night. I remember they tried to put it back without any painkillers, but that was a non-starter; I have always had a very low pain tolerance, and the doctor pushing on my jaw which had been locked open for hours and was already in immense pain was not the best feeling in the world. They ended up sedating me, and from what I’ve been told by my dad and my wife, it was better that I didn’t remember anything that happened next.

Ever since then, my jaw has popped and clicked more, I’ve suffered some occasional tinnitus, jaw pain, and other TMJ issues, but it wasn’t anything like I’d experienced on that night. Certainly, I should have gone to see a dentist or oral surgeon, but as time went on, I moved passed that eventful night and rarely thought about it. The popping and clicking in my jaw became routine.

Cut to last Thursday; six years later, I was taking a fifteen-minute break at work (working from home, thankfully). I had just walked into my living room and was talking to my wife when I yawned. I yawned. I heard the telltale click, and my jaw locked open. Again.

The second thing I learned about my second dislocated jaw is that it isn’t worth going to urgent care; skip straight to the ER (apparently a dentist can also help, but I imagine the ER will be able to see you faster). I learned that after my dad and I spent about 40 minutes sitting in the urgent care waiting room before the doctor came out to tell us that they didn’t have the capabilities to help with my conundrum; certainly, it would have been much nicer if they hadn’t let me sit in agony in their waiting room for over half an hour before coming out to talk to us — maybe the nurse at the desk could have checked before checking us in — but at least…