The side effects of temporomandibular disorder (TMD) often include pain and stiffness in the jaw, headaches, and loud creaking and popping when you open and close your jaw, eat or talk. But one of the symptoms of TMD - and a scary one at that - is locked jaw. While a locked jaw typically develops when TMD is severe, imagine the fear and anxiety caused when you suddenly cannot open or close your jaw.

Risk of Locked Jaw and TMD

If you're living with TMD, your jaw joints are probably inflamed or irritated - and because of this, you have an increased risk of your jaw locking in place.

Here are some things that can cause your jaw to lock:

  • Overuse/misuse from chewing a lot of gum, eating hard or chewy foods, or using your teeth as tools to open packages or bottles
  • Talking for long periods
  • Clenching or grinding the teeth
  • Mouth breathing
  • Stress that can negatively affect the muscles and joints
  • Unhealthy diet, which can cause nutritional deficiencies that deprive the bones and joints of needed vitamins and minerals
  • Arthritis, which can cause joint stiffness and swelling
  • Changes in temperature
  • Trauma

If these conditions or factors occur, your temporomandibular joints may become inflamed or swollen or get out of alignment. When this happens, your jaw may not be able to handle the stress and lock in place.

My Jaw Is Locked - Now What?

There is never a good time for your jaw to be locked open, and it typically happens when you're already dealing with a full plate of stress, life and a zillion other things. Here are a few things you can do if it happens to you:

Don't panic. Yes, easier said than done, but try to relax. Breathe deeply through your nose and try to stay calm.

Use heat. Put a heating pad or hot, moist washcloth or towel on your TMJs to relax them.

Gently move from side to side. After calming down and using heat, gently work your jaw back and forth from side to side.

Talk to your dentist. Once you get your jaw moving again, call your dentist to discuss TMD.

If you're living with TMD or think you have the condition, give Dr. Sean Endsley in Waco, Texas, a call to help reduce your risk of having your jaw lock in place. Call today at 254-799-9540 to schedule your consultation.

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