Locked Jaw: Causes and Tips to Relieve the Tension

A tight jaw can happen for many reasons, such as stress, temporomandibular joint disorders, grinding the teeth at night, and tetanus, also known as lockjaw.

Tetanus is just one cause of stiffness in the jaw, but it can lead to severe complications.

The treatment will depend on the cause.

Often, a massage can relieve tightness in the jaw, but if you think your jaw may be stiff because of tetanus, arthritis, or a traumatic injury, it’s best to seek medical advice as soon as possible.

Symptoms of locked jaw

A tight jaw can cause pain or discomfort in many parts of your body. The intensity of the pain can vary and may be described as achy, throbbing, tender, or severe. These feelings may become worse while chewing or yawning.

Causes of locked jaw

  1. Temporomandibular joint disorders (TMD or TMJD)

TMD causes pain in the jaw joint and surrounding muscles. It can cause pain or locking in one or both hinge joints (temporomandibular joints). These joints are located between the lower jaw and the temporal bone.

TMD can also cause an aching or throbbing pain and feelings of tenderness in or near the ear, jaw, and face. Chewing food may increase feelings of pain. Chewing may also produce a clicking sound or grinding sensation.

TMD pain is often temporary and may resolve with at-home care.

  1. Stress

Feelings of stress and anxiety can sometimes cause you to unintentionally clench your jaw or grind your teeth while you’re asleep. You may also hold your jaw in a clenched position while you’re awake without being aware of it.

These actions can cause feelings of tightness in the jaw and pain during sleeping and waking hours. The pain may be worse when you eat or talk.

Stress can also cause other similar symptoms, such as tension headaches.

  1. Teeth grinding (bruxism)

Bruxism (teeth grinding) or clenching may be caused by stress, genetics, or dental problems like misaligned teeth. Bruxism may occur during sleep. It can also occur when you’re awake, although you may not be consciously aware of it.

Bruxism can cause tightness or feelings of soreness in the face, neck, and upper or lower jaw. It can also cause headaches or earaches.

  1. Excessive chewing

Chewing gum or any other substance in excess may result in tightness in the lower jaw (mandible).

  1. Rheumatoid arthritis (RA)

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune inflammatory disorder. It affects muscles and joints throughout the body.

According to 2015 research, up to 80 percentTrusted Source of people with RA have TMD, which is a cause of tightness in the jaw.

RA may damage the jaw joint and surrounding tissues. It can also cause bone loss in the jaw.

  1. Osteoarthritis (OA)

Though rare, it’s possible for osteoarthritis (OA) to occur within the temporomandibular joints. It can cause deterioration and loss of function of the jaw bone, cartilage, and tissue. This can result in a tight, painful jaw. It can also cause radiating pain to the surrounding area.

  1. Tetanus

Tetanus (lockjaw) is a potentially fatal bacterial infection. Symptoms include stiffness in the abdomen, trouble swallowing, and painful muscle contractions in the jaw and neck.

The tetanus vaccine (Tdap) prevents this infection and has significantly reduced the incidence of tetanus in the United States.

  1. Facial trauma

Sometimes an injury to the face can affect part of the jaw that causes movement. This may result in pain or tightness.

Potential causes of jaw damage include blunt force, such as a striking injury, and even cancer treatments like surgery or radiation.

  1. Medications

Some medications may trigger jaw pain symptoms.

These can include:

antipsychotic drugs


metoclopramide (Reglan)

  1. Infections

If you have an infection around your mouth, it can affect jaw movement.

Though uncommon, infections can permanently damage muscles or nerves, which can lead to repeated bouts of lockjaw.

Source: www.healthline.com


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