As we’ve explained in detail in past blog posts, the temporomandibular joint (TMJ) allows you to open and close your mouth, as well as perform normal day-to-day activities easily and comfortably. As one of the most mobile and complex joints in the human body, however, the TMJ can easily be misaligned—often as a result of injury, bad bite, teeth grinding (bruxism), and bad habits (like nail biting, etc.)—causing a serious and uncomfortable case of TMD (temporomandibular joint dysfunction).
Today, Detroit TMJ expert Dr. Aziza Askari wants to talk about one problem that often accompanies TMD: lockjaw.
What is Lockjaw?
Just like its name suggests, lockjaw occurs when your jaw becomes “locked”—unmovable and uncomfortable—in either an open or closed position.
When a patient experiences lockjaw, he or she can be mildly uncomfortable to severely in pain. If you experience lockjaw, you can apply a warm, moist washcloth to the side of your face and jaw to relieve the discomfort temporarily, but lockjaw must be treated by our Detroit dentist, and the sooner, the better.
How is Lockjaw Treated?
If your jaw becomes lodged in place and you are unable to move it, contact your dentist immediately, and do not try to release your jaw on your own. Your dentist understands the inner workings of your jaw, as well as the structure related to TMD—including the head, neck, and teeth—and possesses the knowledge to safely correct your jaw position.
If your jaw is locked in an open position, light sedation will most likely be needed to keep you comfortable and relaxed while your dentist moves your jaw either forward of backward until the disk has settled properly in place.
If your jaw is locked in a closed position, however, you will need to be completely sedated as your dentist massages the triangular joint beneath your ears on each side of your head with gradually intensifying pressure. Eventually, the jaw can be opened very gently, and your dentist will manually restore the jaw to proper alignment.