What is lock jaw and how do I Fix Lockjaw – Symptoms

symptoms of lock jaw

The jaw plays an important role in human anatomy. It is designed to open and close seamlessly, which is an action that enables you to eat, drink, and speak. If you suffer from a locked jaw, it is no surprise why it can be a huge source of anxiety to anyone who is suffering from it. According to this study, about 5-12% of the human population has experienced locked jaw. Before this could happen to you (in case it hasn’t yet), it is important that you know how to fix lock jaw and restore your daily activities.

Why Lock Jaw Happens

main cause of locked jaw

When you suffer from a locked jaw, the question that rushes to your mind is this: what caused it? Determining the cause of your lock jaw is an important step to find relief. However, pinpointing that cause might be more difficult than you think as there are several possible causes.

Temporomandibular joint disorder (or TMJ disorder) is one of the main causes of locked jaws. While it is not the most common symptom of TMJ disorder, it could be that your locked jaw is a symptom of this even bigger problem. When you suffer from TMJ disorder, it can cause pain on the hinge joints of your jaw. In some cases, these joints become locked together, inhibiting your ability to move your jaw, or cause tremendous pain when you do so.

Another symptom that could potentially link lock jaw to TMJ is when you hear clicking sounds when you chew your food. You might also notice pain whenever you chew. Pain associated with TMD is often temporary but it is best to seek the advice of a TMJ expert, especially if your lock jaw is starting to affect your daily routine. If you have a habit of teeth grinding, this can also aggravate the situation. Make sure you are able to find a treat for teeth grinding when you want to know how to fix lock jaw.

Another common cause for lock jaw is when there is lack of harmony with the position of the muscles and joints near your jaw, which includes the TMJ. There is a mandible that is located on both sides of the head and connects it to stationary points. In case one of the two sides is out of position, it can cause the muscles to over-compensate. Over time, it creates tension resulting in your ligaments and jaw muscles becoming strained. This causes the muscles to temporarily lock up resulting in a condition known as lock jaw.

Among the lesser known causes of lock jaw are inflammation and infection. When the tissues surrounding your jaw become inflamed, the fluid buildup limits the function of the jaw muscles. The presence of fluid can impede the mobility of your jaw, which creates that locked sensation. On the other hand, it could also be an indicator of prolonged infection. Lock jaws appear on the later stages of infection for tetanus.

How to Fix Lock Jaw

fixes of lock jaw

Understanding the reasons why lock jaw could happen is the first step to finding a treatment or relief. Thankfully, this can be addressed with the use of non-invasive approaches.

Manual jaw opening exercises are one of the most effective techniques on how to fix lock jaw, especially if it is caused by muscle tightness. You can perform a simple exercise of opening and closing movements on your mouth. Do this several times to warm up the muscles around the jaw.

After that, rest your fingers on top of the bottom four front teeth and apply gentle pressure. This pressure will help to open your jaw slightly wider. Hold this position for at least 30 seconds at a time. Ideally, you must perform 12 repetitions of this exercise per session. However, you need to be gentle and don’t try to push too hard, especially if you feel pain.

You can also do stretching exercises on your jaw. Flexibility of the muscles around the jaw and neck area is important so that it does not tighten up very easily. Use your tongue to press against the roof of your mouth. Apply gentle pressure to gradually open your mouth as wide as you can before releasing the pressure and shutting it close. Repeat the process for at least 10 times more.

If the lock jaw is associated with TMJ disorder or teeth grinding, the use of mouth guard might be recommended. Wearing a mouth guard will help to prevent contact between the upper and lower teeth. This will also ease tightness in the jaw area. The use of a mouth guard will also reduce the strain in the jaw area, especially if the position of your jaw is out of balance.

Massaging your jaw area is another easy technique to provide relief for lock jaw. The massaging motion helps to increase blood flow in the area and in the process relieve tightness in the muscles, too. Apply a circular motion to the muscles near your ears and simultaneously open your mouth. Do this massage as many times during the day as possible.

There are other strategies on how to fix lock jaw that you can try at home. You can apply a warm compress onto the muscles of your jaw. The heat will help to relax the muscles to provide relief from pain due to tightness. If the cause is inflammation, you can take anti-inflammatory medications such as naproxen every 6 hours.

It is also best to limit psychological stress in your daily routine. The more stress you feel, the more tense your muscles become. This could aggravate your lock jaw symptoms. Try to incorporate head and neck stretches to your daily routine, too. These muscles are connected to your jaw and TMJ so you want to add more flexibility to those areas.

If your lock jaw symptoms persist, it might be best to seek the advice of an expert. You can see your dentist or a TMJ expert so they can evaluate your jaw, as well as your teeth and the surrounding joints. There are a few advanced treatment options currently employed to offer permanent fix for lock jaw, such as orthotics, physical therapy, or botox. The method of treatment will depend on the cause and the extent of the symptoms.

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Dr. Manish Shah tmj and sleep specialist

Dr. Manish Shah

  • BDS, MBBS, MMED (Sleep Medicine)
  • Masters in Sleep Medicine
  • General Medical Practitioner
  • General, Implant and Cosmetic Dentist
  • Certified in TMJ & Craniofacial Pain Management
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