Many people ignore TMJ symptoms for a long time until it develops into an emergency. One of the most drastic wakeup calls for people with TMJ is a locked jaw. It can make you panic, and you might finally realize that your jaw condition is serious and needs treatment.
Here’s what to do if your jaw locks.
Types of Jaw Locks
In general, there are three types of locked jaw that people experience:
- Limited jaw movement
- Open lock
- Closed lock
With limited jaw movement, your jaw might not be completely locked, but it’s hard to open or close it. This might be because your jaw motion simply stops, or you might experience so much pain that you can’t stand to move your jaw any further.
With open lock, your jaw opens but then won’t close again.
With closed lock, you can’t open your jaw.
Don’t Force Your Jaw with Your Hands
For many people, the first instinct is to try to force your jaw closed or open with your hands. While you might be able to physically do this, you can also injure yourself in ways that will not only increase your risk of future jaw lock, it might increase your need for more invasive treatment in the future.
Contact a TMJ Dentist
At normal times, you might consider going to the emergency room for help with a locked jaw. However, with hospitals experiencing high volume due to COVID-19 cases, it’s strongly recommended that you get help elsewhere.
TMJ dentists are always your best option for dealing with a locked jaw. TMJ can stand for either the temporomandibular joint (your jaw joints) or temporomandibular joint disorders (which are also sometimes called TMD).
The best way to get emergency care for a locked jaw is talking on the phone, but this can be hard with a locked jaw, so have someone in the house call for you. If you live alone, consider texting a friend who can call for you.
Immediate Release and Long-Term Relief
A TMJ dentist or their assistant will be able to gently release your locked jaw. They may also be able to provide relief from sore muscles and joints. Often this involves using TENS (transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation), a kind of gentle electric massage.
Once your jaw is moving freely, a TMJ dentist can perform diagnostic tests to identify the exact cause of your locked jaw, and recommend the proper treatment for you. This might include the use of an oral splint, regular TENS treatment, orofacial myofunctional therapy, dental restorations, or even surgery. The sooner you get TMJ treatment, the more likely you can benefit from noninvasive treatment.
In addition, to helping your jaw move more freely, TMJ treatment can provide relief from related symptoms like: