What Do I Do If My Jaw Is Stiff Or Locked?

September 26, 2023

Filed under: Uncategorized — bettersleepdent @ 3:01 pm
Woman with brown hair in a purple shirt with her eyes closed holding her hand to her jaw which is illustrated to look like bone

Do you wake up in the morning with a jaw so tight that it’s difficult to open your mouth? Is it incredibly uncomfortable, even painful, when you open and close your mouth? If so, you could have a locked jaw from TMD (temporomandibular joint disorder) which commonly causes these symptoms. If this sounds like you, keep reading to learn more about what it is and what you can do to help yourself.

What Causes a Locked Jaw?

We have a joint on either side of our face where the jawbone meets the base of the skull referred to as the temporomandibular joint (TMJ). These allow your mouth to open and close without issue when it’s working properly. If your TMJ becomes misaligned, though, it can stretch out the ligaments and inflame the muscles that hold it in place. Over time, this allows the disc that holds the upper and lower jaws in place to dislocate which leads to a stiff jaw that won’t function right.

Are There Other Symptoms Besides Stiffness?

There are other symptoms you might notice if you’re having TMJ issues including:

  • A clicking noise in your jaw when you eat or speak.
  • Your jaw pulling sideways or in a zigzag pattern when you open your mouth wide to yawn.
  • Throbbing or tenderness around the ear, jaw, and face.
  • Anxiety and frustration with not being able to open or move your jaw.

If you observe any of these signs, a thoroughly locked jaw could quickly follow.

What Can I Do To Treat It?

No one wants to have to live every day with the sting and annoyance of a stiffened jaw but fortunately, there are things you can do! First, remember to try your best to relax. Panicking will only add to the tension. Instead, to alleviate the ache you can try:

  • Placing your jaw between the palms of your hands and gently wiggle them from side to side and back and forth. This could pop the slipped disc back into place.
  • Applying a heating pad to the sides of your jaw to relax the muscles.
  • Manage discomfort with over-the-counter pain medications.

When Should I Call My Dentist?

If you notice that the symptoms are growing more intense or are happening more frequently, or if you’re completely unable to move your jaw, it’s time to call the dentist. They’ll be able to provide treatment options that could help, such as:

  • Custom-fitted oral appliances. Something like a bite guard or splint, for example, can help stabilize the jaw and reduce uneven pressure on the joints.
  • Injections. Botox or corticosteroids can paralyze the inflamed muscles and reduce symptoms for several months.
  • Surgery. An arthroscopy allows your dentist to treat problems inside the joints.

Living with frequent soreness and stiffness in your jaw can impact your daily life in a big way. If you’re experiencing TMJ problems, call your dentist today. They can assess your condition and help you decide on the best course of action so that you can get back to life as usual!

About the Author

Dr. Sara Saba has nearly a decade of experience helping patients get their lives back after dealing with chronic issues like TMJ-related pain. She received her undergraduate degree from the University of Maryland at College Park. Then, she continued her formal education with additional courses including Botox fillers. If you’ve been coping with a stiff jaw and related symptoms, you’re welcome to request an appointment on our website or by calling (301) 460-3331.

No Comments

No comments yet.

RSS feed for comments on this post.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.