If you have trouble opening and closing your mouth or you are experiencing painful muscle spasms in your jaw, you might have lockjaw. As it is a rare condition, you might be asking yourself: What is lockjaw? How did I get it? What are its symptoms? More importantly, how do I treat it? Let’s take a look at what is lockjaw and how you can prevent it from occurring to you.
What is Lockjaw?
Lockjaw, also called trismus or tetanus, is a painful condition that affects jaw movement by making the muscles and nerves in the jaw spasm. These spasms make it difficult for the mouth to open and move.
Lockjaw can make it difficult speaking, eating, swallowing and maintaining oral hygiene, which is why it is vital you seek treatment as soon as possible. Lockjaw is not contagious.
Lockjaw can occur from numerous causes, but the three big ones are tetanus, inflammation of the soft tissue and TMJ disorder.
The most common cause of lockjaw is tetanus, a bacterial infection that affects the central nervous system. Spores of Clostridium tetani enter the bloodstream through cuts or wounds and produce a tetanospasmin toxin that blocks nerve signals sent from the central nervous system to muscles throughout the body, mostly in the neck and jaw. The cuts/wounds can come from animal bites, burns, chronic sores and infections, crush injuries, dental infection, drug use, insect bites, piercings, punctures and tattoos. Tetanus can be life-threatening, but it is preventable with a vaccine.
Inflammation of the soft tissue can occur from too much mouth usage, like too much chewing, which is called over mastication.
TMJ disorder is another cause of lockjaw. The Temporomandibular joint is responsible for controlling where your jaw goes. When TMJ disorder is the cause, it can wreak havocon your face.
Other causes include head or neck cancer; hypocalcemia; injuries or infections in the jaw muscles, nerves, bones, tendons or ligament; mouth illness; and oral disease.
Lockjaw has several painful symptoms; these symptoms appear between three days to three weeks. If left untreated, advanced lockjaw can lead to abnormal heart rhythm, bone fractures, brain damage, bruxism (teeth grinding), choking, clotting in the lungs, dry mouth (xerostomia), malnourishment, mouth ulcers, pneumonia, sore or inflamed mouth (mucositis), tooth decay and vocal cord spasms (laryngospasm).
These complications can lead to death, which is why it is vital you seek treatment as soon as possible.
Blood pressure and heart rate changes
Fever and sweating
Jaw cramping and pain
Muscle and nerve contractions, spasms, stiffness and tightness in the jaw and neck
Trouble breathing, eating, opening and closing mouth, speaking, swallowing, talking and maintaining oral hygiene
The best treatment for lockjaw is to get the tetanus vaccine. Most people get it in the DTap (diphtheria-tetanus-acellular pertussis) vaccine when they are babies. Boosters are available every 10 years.
If you haven’t received the vaccine, treatment for lockjaw depends on what caused it in the first place and how severe the symptoms are. See your doctor immediately if you suspect that you have lockjaw, as untreated symptoms can be fatal. Most lockjaw treatment includes medication or physical therapy. If the cause if TMJ, you must treat the TMJ disorder first.
There are some at-home treatments to help ease some of the symptoms. Apply a warm compress on the jaw muscles several times a day to loosen them, and apply a cold pack to relieve the pain. Try to do jaw exercise, like opening the jaw slightly and moving the mouth from side to side, to try and unlock the jaw. Stay hydrated. Take over-the-counter pain medication. Gently massage the jaw muscles.
If you have ever been injured, you might have received an MRI or CT scan. Both are types of diagnostic imaging tests used to help doctors form a diagnosis. A doctor might choose one over the other based on the area being scanned, the patient’s health history or the urgency of the images. Essentially, both machines take pictures of your body’s inside (bones, organs, soft tissue, etc.) in a noninvasive manner. Though they both have their pros and cons, there are several differences between an MRI and a CT scan.
If you suffer from prolonged, intense headaches, you might have recurring migraines. Understanding what a migraine is can help you identify the causes and symptoms, as well as find treatments and avoid triggers. It is also essential to learn about the different types and stages.
With all sorts of varying levels and types of pain, it makes sense to not have a one-size-fits-all treatment; acute, or short-term, pain might need a different approach compared to chronic, or long-term, pain. Pain medicine, surgery and other forms of pain treatment are available, but one noninvasive and readily available option is TENS. You may be asking yourself: What is TENS? How does it work? Will it help treat my pain?
If you have Temporoandibular joint disfunction, or TMJ, then there is a good chance that you have heard of Dr. Eddie Siman, the TMJ Expert. Dr. Siman has been on talk shows and radio shows to discuss TMJ and how it can affect the body. He has two offices in Los Angeles for patients to finally find some relief to their pain and troubles.