What causes a locked jaw?

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A locked jaw can be caused by a TMD, as well as other factors.

If you have experienced a tight jaw, you will know how uncomfortable it can be. The pain can range from mild to intense, and many people notice that their discomfort is exacerbated with actions like chewing and yawning. So, what exactly causes a locked jaw? And is there anything you can do to find relief?

What are the symptoms of a locked jaw?

Besides pain and tightness in the jaw, you might experience discomfort in other areas of the face, as well as the head, teeth, neck, and ears.

Although every person is different, some of the other possible symptoms of a locked jaw include a clicking jaw, as well as difficulty related to range of motion when trying to open and move the mouth.

What causes a locked jaw?

One of the possible causes of a tight, locked and clicking jaw is a temporomandibular joint disorder. TMDs often cause pain in the jaws and surrounding muscles, as well as locking in the temporomandibular joints between the lower jaw and temporal bone.

Another possible cause of the issue is stress, which can lead to clenching of the jaw and/or teeth grinding. These habits can lead to jaw pain and tightness that worsens when biting, chewing, and speaking. Severe teeth grinding can also cause pain and tension in the facial muscles and neck, potentially leading to headaches and ear pain.

Certain conditions can also lead to a tight jaw — these include rheumatoid arthritis; osteoarthritis; and tetanus. Facial trauma, which can occur as the result of an accident or sports injury, can affect the jaw’s ability to move as it should, which can in turn lead to pain and tightness.

How can you relieve a tight jaw?  

It is sometimes possible to alleviate tightness in the jaw by exercising and stretching the jaw muscles. Certain exercises can help to relieve tension in the muscles while also stretching and strengthening the muscles of the neck and jaw.

If your symptoms are caused by clenching your jaw or grinding your teeth, your dentist may recommend that you address any issues with your bite, teeth, or the position of your jaw.

Other possible treatments include neuromuscular orthotics, low level laser therapy, trigger point therapy and treatment of breathing dysfunction when necessary. Neuromodulator injections can also be used, in which case they are administered into the jaw muscles to alleviate tightness and tension.

When should you get help?

If you are suffering from a tight or locked jaw, and have been experiencing jaw pain for some time, it is advisable that you seek professional help. Although at-home exercises and stress reduction techniques are often helpful, if your symptoms do not resolve within a reasonable time, you are likely to benefit from advice from your dentist or doctor.

In the meantime, you can prevent exacerbating your discomfort by avoiding excessive chewing. Try to avoid foods that are particularly sticky and chewy, as these require excessive use of the jaw muscles. Stick to soft foods instead to minimise chewing that can cause you pain.

How can we help?

At TMJ Centre Melbourne, we take a unique, coordinated approach to the management and treatment of TMJ disorders. Our dentist uses a combination of treatments to correct issues related to the teeth and jaws, while our chiropractor works to reduce dysfunction in various areas of the body, including the cranium, hips, neck and back in order to remove the pressure that is being placed on the TMJs.

If you would like to find out more about our approach and how the team at TMJ Centre Melbourne can help you, please have a look here.   To find out more about our range of services or to book an appointment, please contact us here or give us a call on (03) 9417 4038. We look forward to helping to alleviate your discomfort and improving your overall sense of wellbeing.