Rear-end-impact motor vehicle accidents may result in cervical and temporomandibular-related pain complaints. Head kimematics in simulated low-impact rear-end impacts have been investigated but mandibular kinematics have not been described. Thirty healthy adult subjects underwent three impacts (4·5 m s−2 expected, 10·0 m s−2 unexpected, and 10·0 m s−2 expected). Onset time and peak magnitude of angular head acceleration, angular mandibular acceleration and angular mandibular displacement were measured. Significant mandibular opening acceleration was not identified with rearward head rotation. The peak magnitude of mandibular closing angular acceleration approximately doubled with increased impact magnitude. No differences in peak angular mandibular acceleration regarding expectation were identified. Gender differences were detected in the fast unexpected impact. The peak time for the angular mandibular acceleration (mandibular closure) was approximately 84–120 ms later than peak rearward angular head acceleration for all impacts. Onset and peak times for angular mandibular acceleration (mandibular closure) were similar to the onset and peak times for forward head acceleration. There was also a positive correlation between the magnitude of the forward angular acceleration of the head and angular acceleration of the mandible for the slow (0·65, P = 0·015) and fast expected (0·844, P = 0·001) impacts. The average angular mandibular angular displacement (mandibular closure) was approximately 6°. The hyperextension hypothesis regarding mechanism of temporomandibular joint injury in low-impact rear-end collisions cannot be supported.