How to Unlock a Locked Jaw

by Rosemarie Hardison
how to unlock a locked jaw

You’re hanging out with friends, eating, and chatting the night away. Then, out of nowhere, you feel shooting pain in your face. Add to that, you suddenly can’t move your jaw.

If that happened to you, you’re likely suffering from lockjaw.

It can be quite alarming and uncomfortable, especially if you don’t understand what’s going on.

Let’s take a look at what lockjaw is and how to unlock it.

What Is Lock Jaw?

what is lock jaw

Trismus, commonly known as lockjaw, is a medical condition that affects your lower jaw muscles. More specifically, trismus is when you’re unable to move your lower jaw. The muscles spasm and lock in position.

Your jaw will lock in whatever position it was when the spasm happened, meaning your jaw could be completely open, closed, or somewhere in between. This will make it difficult to carry out normal activities like eating or even talking. It’s also very painful.

Lockjaw can have serious long-term effects if not treated properly. It can cause problems swallowing and in severe cases can change the appearance of your face.

Adding to that, if your jaw locks in a closed position, it makes it almost impossible to even examine the jaw.

Causes of Lock Jaw

So, you’re relaxing one afternoon, then you suddenly feel a shooting pain in your jaw. This can all be incredibly scary, especially if you don’t understand why you can’t move your jaw.

Well, there are a few causes:

1. Tetanus

The most common cause of lockjaw is tetanus. Tetanus is a bacterial infection caused by the spores of Clostridium tetani.

When the bacteria enter your body, they start to multiply and produce toxins. The toxins will then mix and can cause painful muscle spasms. It can cause your neck and jaw to lock, making it difficult to talk or turn your head.

How severe the infection is will depend on how much toxin is in your system. A minor infection will cause localized spasms in your jaw, while a serious one can cause generalized spasming, which can affect the whole body.

Although tetanus is uncommon, it’s a serious, life-threatening disease. It’s transmitted through contact with the spores. They could be in soil, dust, or fertilizers. In rare cases, mothers can transmit it to their unborn children.

The CDC recommends people of all ages get vaccinated for tetanus. Tetanus is treatable, but it can be extremely painful. So, better safe than sorry.

2. Muscle or Nerve Injury

Your face consists of many muscles and nerves. Lockjaw affects your lower jaw muscle or the temporomandibular joint (TMJ). It goes all the way from ear to ear.

The TMJ is the strongest muscle in the human body, based on its weight. It’s made to chew through rough foods and support our constant chatting.

Any trauma to the face can cause inflammation of the TMJ or the nerves surrounding it. When the TMJ goes through repeated inflammation, it could lead to lockjaw.

3. Other Medical Conditions

Other types of infections and inflammation can cause lockjaw. Any localized dental infection or soft tissue inflammation of the face could do it. But those aren’t the only medical conditions that can cause lockjaw.

One of the many negative side effects of cancer is lockjaw. When your body’s trying to fight off cancer cells, sometimes your antibodies can get confused. The antibodies will start attacking healthy cells. This is a medical condition known as paraneoplastic syndrome.

Stress can also be a big factor. When we’re stressed, we sometimes grind our teeth. Grinding too hard or for too long can lead to inflammation of the TMJ.

Arthritis and some other inflammatory diseases can also cause lockjaw. But, it’s usually less painful and doesn’t last as long.

In some rare cases, even medication interactions could cause lockjaw. This can happen with some antipsychotic medications.

Symptoms of Jaw Lock

Depending on the severity of the condition, the symptoms may vary. They can be mild and unnoticeable, or they can be very painful. The symptoms can also get worse the longer you ignore them.

Some of the most common symptoms of lockjaw are:

  • Restricted jaw movement
  • Muscle spasms
  • Earaches
  • Jaw pain
  • Headaches
  • Inability to swallow

How to Unlock a Locked Jaw

how to unlock a locked jaw@

Lockjaw can be painful and distracting, but there are a couple of things you can try to ease the pain:

  • Pain medication
  • Alternate warm and cool compresses
  • Gently massage the TMJ using your index and middle fingers
  • Hold your chin and pull down slowly
  • Facial exercises
  • Antibiotics for bacterial infections

Treatment will be different depending on what caused the lockjaw. Before you try treating your jaw, you should know what’s causing it.

If grinding your teeth is the reason behind your lockjaw, then you need to de-stress. You can try a night guard. They’re thin and designed to keep your jaw relaxed. It can, however, be slightly uncomfortable.

If the problem is medical, you’re going to need a doctor. The doctor can prescribe many medications to address the issue. They can also prescribe you pain medication if the pain is unbearable.

Ask a doctor before taking any medication to make sure you’re getting the proper treatment. The wrong medication can make your symptoms worse.

Wrapping Up

Lockjaw can be a serious medical condition, and in severe cases, it can be life-threatening.

There are many causes for lockjaw. The most common one is tetanus. The good news is, tetanus is treatable.

Cancer can also lead to lockjaw. Your body can start attacking itself, leading to inflammation of the jaw.

To relieve the pain, you can try hot and cold compresses or a gentle massage of the jaw muscle. If the pain’s really bad, your doctor can prescribe pain medication.

Because lockjaw has many causes, treatment can vary. Make sure to consult a doctor before you start treatment.

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