What Can Be Done About My Jaw Locking?

What Can Be Done About My Jaw Locking?

If your jaw locks either open or closed, you have an issue with the temporomandibular joint (TMJ), the hinged joint that connects your mandible (jaw) to your skull and allows you to yawn, chew, and move the jaw up, down, and side-to-side when speaking. The locking is usually accompanied by pain and other symptoms; the collection of these symptoms is known as temporomandibular disorder (TMD) or TMJ dysfunction.

At the office of Kiran Rapal, DDS, Inc., in Saratoga, California, Dr. Rapal and her team specialize in diagnosing and treating all aspects of TMDs, including jaw locking. If you’re struggling with pain and limited range of motion, they can offer you customized treatment plans that banish the pain and restore proper jaw function.

The causes and symptoms of TMDs

Sometimes you can correlate TMJ problems with a direct injury to the jaw, say, from a car accident or a fall. However, in most cases, the exact causes of TMDs aren’t readily apparent. For many people, problems may arise from a combination of genetics, joint disease (arthritis), and bruxism (jaw clenching and/or teeth grinding). Poor posture, stress, and repetitive gum chewing that taxes the joint can all contribute as well.

In addition to jaw locking, TMDs can produce many other symptoms, including:

If Dr. Rapal notices some joint issues but you don’t experience pain, clicking and popping, or jaw locking, you probably don’t require any treatment.

What can be done about my jaw locking?

It’s possible for TMDs to resolve themselves without treatment. However, if your symptoms persist, Dr. Rapal may recommend one or more of the following treatments.

Medications

For TM joint pain and discomfort, start by using OTC pain relievers and anti-inflammatory medications to get relief. If these aren’t strong enough, Dr. Rapal may prescribe prescription-strength ibuprofen or a short-term course of a muscle relaxant to calm muscle spasms that lead to pain.

Non-medication therapies

The most common non-medication therapy for jaw locking is an oral appliance called an occlusal splint or mouthguard. This soft plastic device fits over your teeth, and you wear it when you sleep to relax the muscles and prevent jaw clenching and teeth grinding. Dr. Rapal also uses a sleep apnea appliance for this purpose.

Physical therapy is another option. Dr. Rapal can teach you exercises designed to stretch and strengthen your jaw muscles, and ultrasound treatments and moist heat and ice placed on the jaw can help relax the joint.

Patient education and counseling allow you to better understand what’s causing the problem and which behaviors aggravate it. That way you can learn to avoid those triggers.

Lifestyle changes

The first step to correcting the problem of a locked jaw is to become aware of what you’re doing that causes or exacerbates it. In the case of TMDs, activities such as jaw clenching, teeth grinding, pencil chewing, resting your chin on your palm, and nail biting can all contribute to jaw muscle tightness and pain. By changing your habits, you can help the muscles relax, which gives you relief.

Changing your eating habits can also help the discomfort. Opt for softer foods, and cut your food into smaller pieces to avoid hard chewing and opening your mouth too wide. Also, avoid sticky or chewy items, and absolutely get rid of the chewing gum.

If your jaw is locking, or if you’re experiencing any of the other signs of temporomandibular joint dysfunction, it’s time to come into Kiran Rapal, DDS, Inc. for an evaluation. Give the office a call at 408-864-7010, or book online with us today.

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