Have you experienced a locked jaw? Are you looking for relief from this alarming condition? Locking jaw is a sign of TMD. The Bend Headache Center can help bring you comfort through targeted treatment. 

When your jaw locks, it can be painful — and terrifying. We understand and are here for you. 

Jaw lock can happen at any time and can lead to choking, tooth decay and even malnutrition if not treated. 

What Causes Jaw Lock?

There is no singular reason jaws lock, but it may occur because of medications, cancer treatment, hypocalcemia (low levels of calcium in the body) or tetanus. However, one of the most frequent causes of jaw lock is temporomandibular joint disorder (TMD), a collection of conditions caused by damage to the jaw joints.

Many people do not even realize they’re experiencing jaw problems or do not connect the symptoms they are experiencing to a potential jaw issue before their jaw locks for the first time. 

The Warning Signs

In the case of TMD, there are often signs that something is wrong with your jaw. These may include:

  • Difficulty opening or closing the mouth
  • Jaw stiffness
  • Painful muscle spasms
  • Swelling in the jaw joints
  • Clicking, popping, snapping or grating noises 
  • Pain in the jaw at rest or when in use
  • Feeling as if your ear is “full”
  • Unexplained ear pain
  • Ringing in the ears (tinnitus)
  • Vertigo or other movement disorders 

Some people report headaches, earaches, and pain in the jaw or around the jaw within hours of their jaw-locking incident. 

Is Jaw Locking Serious?

Yes, jaw locking can be serious because it can mean there is damage to your jaw joint.

Jaw locking can also affect speech and can cause chronic pain, difficulty eating and changes in speech. 

If your jaw lock is caused by another issue, such as tetanus or another infection, it can mean nerve and muscle damage and even death. Learn more about the signs of tetanus here

What Happens if TMD Is Left Untreated?

If a jaw joint disorder causes your jaw lock, leaving it untreated can cause further damage to the teeth, including: 

  • Tooth decay
  • Bruxism (excessive grinding or jaw clenching, which can cause tooth enamel to wear down or teeth to crack)
  • Muscle contracture, which can mean the shortening and hardening of the muscles and other connective tissues in the jaw, causing deformities and loss of use

It’s essential to act quickly when locking jaw occurs to prevent permanent damage and loss of jaw use. As the risk of complications is so high, we recommend that you call your doctor or dentist to get the correct diagnosis of your jaw lock and get the professional care you need to treat it. Learn more about our TMJ rehabilitation here.

Self-Care Treatments for Jaw Lock

If you cannot get to a professional immediately following your jaws locking, there are a few self-care steps you can take to ease your discomfort. We recommend:

  • Applying a warm compress using a hot water bottle, hot towel or washcloth a few times a day to loosen the tense muscles. You can also lay on a heating pad to relax the joint. Some individuals find relief by sipping a hot beverage like tea or even warm water to relieve the joint’s locking. 
  • Applying cold packs to the jaw for 15 minutes to help reduce pain and ease inflammation. 
  • Correcting your posture by sitting upright or laying on your back versus your side. You can also consider a neck pillow to help keep your head (and jaw) in a better position. 
  • Supporting your muscle and joint health by taking magnesium supplements and eating foods rich in calcium or magnesium. 
  • Practicing jaw exercises by gently opening and closing your mouth or moving your lower jaw from one side to the other. 
  • Staying hydrated.

How Is Jaw Lock Treated? 

The first step in treating your jaw lock is diagnosis. If you experience jaw lock, feeling as if your jaw will lock in place or as if your jaw is difficult to open or close, it’s time to talk to a doctor or dentist about your symptoms. 

At the Bend Headache Center, we recognize the seriousness of jaw lock caused by TMD, and we can help. 

We offer patients living with the discomfort of TMD a comprehensive approach. Depending on the severity of your TMD or jaw disorder, your treatment plan may include: 

  • At-home exercises
  • Physical therapy
  • Muscle relaxants
  • Pain relievers
  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications
  • Steroids
  • Oral appliances/orthotics
  • Orthodontics to correct bite problems

Looking for a Jaw Lock Specialist?

Look no further than the Bend Headache Center. To learn more about jaw lock or to book a consultation with us, call today. We look forward to speaking with you soon and helping you achieve better jaw health.