How Do You Fix Lockjaw?

Reviewed on 2/22/2021
The treatment of lockjaw depends on several factors, such as the severity of the condition
The treatment of lockjaw depends on several factors, such as the severity of the condition

The treatment of lockjaw depends on several factors, such as the severity of the condition, how long the condition has persisted, and the underlying cause.

  • Massage the jaw joint and muscles to loosen them. This is helpful to relieve the pain and stiffness during a lockjaw flareup.
  • If the jaw hurts, then an alternate heat and cold treatment can help reduce pain. Hold ice or cold pack on the side of the face near the jaw joint for 10 minutes. Then, hold a moist heating pad on the same side of the face for 5-10 minutes. This could reduce the pain and increase flexibility in your jaw.

If conservative treatment fails, the doctor may use the below methods:

  • Prescribe painkillers and anti-inflammation medication. Ibuprofen and Naproxen usually help.
  • Muscle relaxants will help in a few cases.
  • Try to mobilize the joint gently. A physiotherapist may use transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) sessions. This uses minute shocks to the surrounding muscles to relax the jaw muscles.
  • Use injections to loosen up muscles or ligaments.
  • Flushing of the joint (arthrocentesis).
  • Surgical removal of sticky adhesions (arthroscopy) or other structures.
  • BOTOX is another method of treatment that has recently been shown to alleviate lockjaw symptoms. BOTOX can o be used to numb jaw muscles if they are contracting repeatedly. With regular injections every 3 months, muscles will continue to relax and allow the jaw to move freely.

Several treatment options may be used in combination with one another to produce the most effective result.

Management:

  • Stick with softer foods, such as yogurt, pudding, rice, eggs, fish, or mashed potatoes. This should prevent the inflammation from getting worse.
  • Large bites could overstress your jaw muscles. Either take small bites or cut your food into tiny pieces to avoid making your pain worse.
  • Avoid opening your mouth too wide while you are eating, talking, or yawning. Relaxing your jaw is important during a Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) flareup.
  • Keep your teeth slightly apart; this keeps pressure off your jaw muscles. You might be pressing your teeth together without realizing it. Constantly remembering to keep the teeth apart may help. Try resting the tongue on top of your bottom row of teeth to force yourself to keep your teeth apart.
  • Sometimes, gum and teeth infections may spread to the soft tissues and muscles surrounding the jaw. Always pay attention to dental hygiene.
  • Stress could trigger lockjaw pain and symptoms. Try taking steps to reduce stress in daily life to prevent further discomfort. Some relaxation activities, such as meditation or yoga, might help reduce the symptoms. Doing things that you enjoy is also good to keep your stress levels low.
  • Night-time grinding is a common problem, especially when stressed. This is tough to control since you are not awake. So, if you have a grinding problem, you can use a plastic night guard over your teeth to protect your jaw.
  • Exercise your jaw to strengthen your muscles. Some stretching and strengthening exercises could relieve the pain and inflammation in your jaw. Your dentist might also recommend physical therapy or a therapeutic massage to relieve your pain.
  • Make sure you are vaccinated against tetanus.

Alternate ways:

  • Acupuncturists may help relieve severe pain and tensions. Accessing pressure points to release tension sometimes helps as per studies.
  • Glucosamine is a popular treatment for arthritis because it may help support joint health. This might also help with lockjaw symptoms. Try taking a daily supplement to see if this helps you. A common glucosamine dose to treat arthritis is 1.5 g per day. However, glucosamine could interfere with blood thinners and a few other medications, so ask your doctor before taking it.
  • Take calcium and magnesium supplements to strengthen your joints. Deficiencies of these nutrients in the body may cause lockjaw issues. Try taking some dietary supplements to boost the amount in your body.

What is lockjaw?

Lockjaw or trismus refers to any condition with a reduced ability to open the mouth. In this condition, you temporarily (in some cases, permanently) lose the ability to open and/or close the mouth. Some cases of lockjaw can cause extreme pain and discomfort. Some common symptoms that arrive in tandem with lockjaw are:

  • Earaches or ear ringing
  • Headaches
  • Jaw popping or jaw clicking
  • Clenching the teeth
  • Weakness when chewing, speaking, or yawning
  • The top and bottom teeth feel like they don’t fit together well
  • Facial pain

Knowledge of the normal range of mouth opening is essential in the diagnosis and treatment of lockjaw. The best way to ensure that you chose the proper treatment approach is to schedule an evaluation at the earliest indication of jaw locking or stiffness. Early evaluation and intervention can make the difference between a treatable short-term TMJ issue and a chronic TMJ problem.

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References
Mather PG. Unlocking the Lock Jaw: Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ) Dysfunction. Harvard Health Publishing. February 22, 2017. https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/unlocking-the-lock-jaw-temporomandibular-joint-tmj-dysfunction-2017022211146

Health Online Unit. Lockjaw. Ministry of Health Malaysia. http://www.myhealth.gov.my/en/lockjaw/

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