Stiff or Locked Jaw? Here’s How to Find Relief

January 15, 2024

Filed under: Other Topics — Dr. Steve Koo @ 3:55 pm
Woman grimacing and holding her jaw

Most people do not give a lot of thought to how their jaw functions. As long as it allows them to eat and speak comfortably, there may be no reason to worry. But what if your jaw feels stiff? What if moving it is difficult or even impossible? This blog post explains what the problem might mean and how you may be able to find relief.

What Causes a Stiff or Locked Jaw?

There are a number of potential causes of a stiff or locked jaw.

  • TMD. TMJ disorder, also known as TMD, occurs when the joint that controls the lower law (the temporomandibular joint — TMJ) is stressed or injured. Millions of people are afflicted by this condition.
  • Infections. Some infections can cause muscle stiffness. Tetanus is particularly well-known for initiating stiffness of the jaw. Fortunately, thanks to widespread vaccination efforts, this is very rare (only 30 or so cases are reported in the U.S. each year).
  • Medications. Some medications, such as certain antipsychotics and anesthetics, may cause limited jaw mobility.
  • Other causes. Injury, arthritis, and other conditions may cause jaw problems.

Home Remedies for TMD

TMD is one of the most common causes of jaw pain and stiffness. It is best treated by a qualified dental professional. However, there are some things you can do before your appointment that may help you find relief:

  • Use heat and cold therapy. Heat can relax overworked muscles, and ice can reduce inflammation in the joint.
  • A modified diet. Try to consume only soft foods or liquids for a while.
  • Exercises. Certain exercises, such as moving your jaw against light resistance, can help to strengthen the TMJ and surrounding muscles.
  • Relaxation. Stress can cause painful muscle tension around the TMJ. It may be helpful to take extra time to relax.

Professional TMD Treatment

If your jaw stiffness is interfering with your quality of life, you should seek professional medical help. Often, a dentist or oral surgeon is the best person to assist with TMD. They may suggest that you wear a custom splint to prevent teeth grinding and help your jaw muscles relax. You might also need some minor adjustments to your bite.

Surgery is another potential solution, though it is typically only recommended in severe cases of TMD.

A stiff or locked jaw is nothing to take lightly!  Fortunately, this problem is highly treatable in most cases.

Meet the Practice

Drs. Steve Koo, Thomas Weil, and William Shepard are the board-certified oral surgeons at Piney Point OMS in Houston. If you suspect you have TMD, our team is ready to evaluate the situation. We offer both noninvasive and surgical treatment options. To learn more about us and how we may be able to help you find relief from a stiff or locked jaw, contact our office at 713-783-5560.

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