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What is Lock Jaw?

Lockjaw is a condition in which the lower jaw becomes stuck in either a closed or open position. 

  • Closed lock: A closed lock is identifiable by the ability to close the mouth but considerable difficulty opening it. When a person is experiencing a closed lock, they’re typically limited to opening their mouth 1 inch (distance between upper and lower teeth) versus the standard 2 inches of a healthy, functional jaw.
  • Open lock: An open lock occurs when the mouth is stuck open. People experiencing an open lock will be unable to close their jaw and bring their teeth together.

lockjaw

Consequences of Jaw Lock

The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) is a severely underappreciated joint, that is, until it stops working. Lockjaw is one of the symptoms of a dysfunctional TMJ. Joint strain, inflammation, underdevelopment of the mandible, and trauma to the joint can result in several issues for people already dealing with TMJ-related pain. Some of these lockjaw consequences include:

  • Inability to fully open their mouth
  • Difficulty eating, chewing, and breathing
  • Inability to close their mouth
  • Muscle strain, pain, and severe discomfort

What to Do When Your Jaw Locks

Not being able to open or close your mouth can be scary. A lack of control over such a highly used joint like the TMJ can leave people incredibly worried and looking for answers. When you’re experiencing lockjaw, try the following:

  • Warm compress: Apply a warm compress using a hot water bag or a hot towel several times a day to loosen the locked jaw muscles.
  • Cold packs: Using cold packs or ice packs can be an effective way to reduce pain by numbing the affected area.
  • Correct posture: While less of an immediate fix, correcting your posture can be crucial to preventing lockjaw from getting worse.
  • Eat right: Eating a diet rich in magnesium-containing things like nuts and seeds are good for overall health, the nervous system, and jaw muscles. Foods rich in calcium, such as milk and milk-based products, have been found to be effective as well to strengthen bones and reduce pain. 
  • Jaw exercises: Little jaw exercises such as opening the jaw slightly and moving the mouth from one side to the other can help unlock the jaw. Though these exercises may seem too painful in the beginning, they will actually be beneficial to unlocking the jaw.
  • Stay hydrated: Drinking a sufficient quantity of water every day will help your jaw muscles stay in shape and encourage an overall healthy, detoxified body. 

Treating TMJ and Lockjaw in Pittsburgh, PA

TMJ treatment, especially as it pertains to lockjaw, requires a neuromuscular dental professional. TMJ can cause a broad spectrum of symptoms making it difficult to diagnose and treat. Dr. Firouzi at the Center for Exceptional Dentistry specializes in TMJ and sleep apnea treatment making his office an excellent resource for those in need of relief. Visit our contact page here or call (412) 274-1126 today for more information.

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