Problems with Lock Jaw


I have been suffering from temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMD) for several years now. My jaw first locked up three years ago and although the locking doesn’t happen too frequently, it clicks a lot. Yesterday the pain was almost to much to bare. I ended up getting a mouth guard from the store to stop me from clenching my teeth. When I removed the guard, my jaw locked up. I ended up at the dentist and they are supposed to be getting me a splint very soon to help. Pretty much my jaw has been locked open since I took the guard out, about 48 hours now. Do you know if there is anything else I can do? I need to get it back into the correct position. Are there any other techniques to get it unstuck?

– Robin in Tennessee


Open lock jaw takes places when the condyle is inhibited from moving back over the disc into the proper position. The condyle is located in the lower jaw and articular disc is what is between the condyle and the skull. When this disc is out of alignment, the result is temporomandibular joint dysfunction. The condition that you described can sometimes last for many weeks. Anti-inflammatory drugs and muscle relaxers are used to help treat lock jaw. It will also likely be recommended that you stick to eating only soft foods. Another way to help reduce the pain and inflammation is to use hot and cold packs for 15 minute increments, approximately three times a day. Place the packs directly on the area that is causing you pain. The splint from the dentist can be used when these treatments do not solve the problem. The splint works to reposition the condyle in a more suitable position. Even after this condition is taken care of, you may still deal with clicking and pain. Although, hopefully the pain is lessened. There are TMJ dentists out there that specialize in treating this disorder. So if the splint has not proven successful, than you may be a candidate for surgery so the jaw can function correctly. Make sure you do your homework as this is a very complex area of dentistry.

There are other techniques that can help reduce the pain and discomfort caused by temporomandibular joint dysfunction that you may be interested in trying. Relaxation techniques or other stress reduction methods, like yoga or meditation work well for some patients. Avoid sticky and chewy foods, and do not chew gum. Do your best to avoid clenching during the daytime hours and if you can try to avoid large yawns. Most of the grinding and clenching takes place at night, so you should wear the splint during the night-time hours. If your symptoms improve, you can discontinue use of the splint to avoid further complications with your bite. In many cases of TMD, orthodontics are required to correct the position of the teeth. Misaligned teeth can contribute to the disorder.

This post is sponsored by Phoenix dentist Arthur Chal Esthetic and Reconstructive Dentistry.

Related links: TMJ Causes, TMJ Treatment

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