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Why Does My Jaw Feel Stiff?

May 5, 2023

Filed under: Uncategorized — ecoontz @ 6:17 pm
patient with a stiff jaw

Do you wake up with a stiff jaw? Do you find it difficult to open and close your mouth, especially when trying to eat? This problem can many times be attributed to temporomandibular joint disorder (TMD). Causing much discomfort and frustration, you may wonder if there are things you can do at home to improve your symptoms. Read on to find out what you can do to minimize the pain and when it’s time to see a professional for help.

What Can Cause a Stiff or Locked Jaw?

No one wants the feeling of being able to move their mouth. Unfortunately, this is all too common for individuals who experience TMD. A stiff or locked jaw can also be the result of poor muscle movement in the face, a lack of jaw development, facial trauma, or cartilage or a disc shifting out of the joint.

When looking at your facial structure, there is what is known as the temporomandibular joint (TMJ). It sits at the base of the skull and meets with the jaw. When working properly, your mouth will open and close with no issues. However, when it becomes inflamed or damaged, the disc that creates a cushion between the joints can slip out of place, resulting in pain as well as a stiff or locked jaw.

Apart From Pain, What Other Symptoms Are Associated with a Locked Jaw?

When suffering from problems associated with your TMJ, you’ll not only experience much discomfort, but you’ll also find it makes a clicking or popping noise when opening your mouth. You might even discover that when you do move it, the lower part of your jaw doesn’t go straight down but instead, moves to the side.

Are There Home Remedies That Can Help?

If you want to try and treat your jaw pain at home, there are a few techniques you can use to improve your symptoms, some of which include:

  • A cold compress, as this will help to lower any inflammation as well as dispel discomfort caused by the overworking of your jaw joint.
  • Over-the-counter pain medications such as anti-inflammatories (i.e., ibuprofen).
  • Use your palms to gently massage your jaw side to side in an attempt to release your locked jaw.
  • Use heat on your jaw to help relax the muscles so that the disc will move back into place.

When Should I See a Dentist?

If you are unable to move your jaw out of a locked position (don’t force it), go to your local dentist’s office immediately. For situations that do not involve a jaw that is currently locked into place, plan to schedule an appointment with your dentist if you notice that the pain is increasing or more frequently. You may be recommended for one of more treatment solutions, such as:

  • An injection (i.e., Botox or corticosteroids)
  • Acupuncture
  • Jaw surgery

No matter how you and your dentist choose to address your jaw pain, take comfort in knowing that with their help, you can be free from the pain and enjoy a better quality of life.

About the Author
Dr. Kinnari Jariwala is a trusted craniofacial sleep medicine expert who earned her dental degree from the University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Dentistry. After completing many hours of continuing education, focusing primarily on sleep and TMJ medicine, she leads the team at Center for Dental Sleep Medicine & TMJ of New Mexico. Seeing patients who suffer from stiff or locked jaws, she can recommend appropriate treatment options to improve jaw movement. If you need help opening and closing your mouth, visit our website or call (505) 433-2107.

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