How To Get Rid of Lockjaw: Symptoms, Causes and Treatments

July 7, 2017

Anna Chen

How To Get Rid of Lockjaw: Symptoms, Causes and Treatments

 

Are you suffering lockjaw? It is a discomfort condition of the jaw, which restricts your natural mouth movements. Despite being popular, most people do not know how to get rid of lockjaw properly, as well as the effective home remedy for lockjaw treatment.

Do not worry; this condition is entirely under control after you read this article. We will explain the top simplest ways, so you will know how to get rid of lockjaw instantly.

What is lockjaw?

Lockjaw (or trismus) is an abnormal condition of the jaw muscle. In the human body, there are three muscles of mastication, which are responsible for normal functions of the jaw. How we make jaw movements and show our emotions depend on the combination of these muscles. Lockjaw is a disorder related to the spasm of the mastication muscles. This condition prevents the mouth from opening fully and may affect the swallow function.

How do you get lockjaw?

Lockjaw itself is not harmful although it may be extremely distress and painful. However, it might indicate some serious health issues which need proper controls.

It is hard to perform a clinical examination of the oral cavity as opening the mouth is nearly impossible. Due to the frequency of this condition in some particular diseases, there are several reasons for lockjaw.

Tetanus

This dangerous infection is one of the principal causes of lockjaw. Not just affects the jaw muscles; Tetanus can damage the muscle and nervous systems of the whole body. When symptoms appear, the muscles start to tighten and contract. The first sign of Tetanus is lockjaw, and then the spasm spreads to patient’s neck, chest, back, and abdomen. Sometimes, the breathing muscles are affected and lead to mortality.

Tetanus is caused by Clostridium tetani infection, which appears in the dust, soil, and manure. Any injuries by cuts, animal bites or burns can be chances for Clostridium to enter the body. It follows the bloodstream to the nerve system and poisons nerves with tetanospasmin. This toxin causes muscle spasm in the jaw and other parts of the body.

Other inflammations

Though Tetanus is widely known as a primary reason of lockjaw, there are still other inflammation causes. Any oral diseases and illnesses that have symptoms in the mouth area (ex. salivary glands infection or mumps) can lead to lockjaw. In these cases, jaw locks up on one side is a common condition. Patients might suffer fever, jaw pain and swelling, and mouth movement restriction.

Joint disorders

It is also called Temporomandibular Joint Disorder (TMD). Unlike inflammation diseases above, in this case, only the joint of your jaw are affected. According to National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, TMD affects more than 10 million of Americans [1]. There are many reasons for this condition, including arthritis, osteoarthritis or gout. Overusing the jaw in chewing and yawn also lead to trauma of the muscles and ligaments around the jaw. Pain and restricted jaw movement are two main symptoms of TMD.

Other reasons

If the patient is suffering mouth, teeth or throat problem, it is possible to have lockjaw symptoms. Besides, any surgical therapies at the face could damage the tissues around the jaw, or leave behind adverse effects of general anesthetics. There is also a chance of poisons from a snake bite that causes lockjaw.

What are the symptoms of lockjaw?

 

lockjaw

 

Knowing the symptoms of lockjaw is very important to have an accurate diagnose. Lockjaw symptoms include:

  • Reduce range of motion in the temporomandibular joint
  • Restrict some particular mouth movements: chew, smile, whistle, and yawn.
  • Unable to swallow or breathe normally.
  • Painful and tender jaw muscles.
  • Swelling in the jaw area.
  • Abnormal sounds appear during jaw movements (ex. popping, cracking or clicking)
  • An earache or a headache on the affected side.

Those symptoms can develop suddenly or gradually, combined with signs in other parts of the body. So, how to unlock a locked jaw? In this article, we only mention the symptoms and treatment of “benign” lockjaw or trismus.

Is lockjaw dangerous? 

The hidden danger of lockjaw lies in its causes. It is less to be worried if a displaced wisdom tooth affects the movement of your mouth. But if Tetanus infected your body, the situation becomes more dangerous and needs to be kept under control. In 2015, there are still over 56 thousand of deaths due to Tetanus worldwide [2]. So, even when you suffer a mild lockjaw, take a good care of it and notice if things become worse.

If lockjaw is left untreated, it could lead to some complications such as bad mouth hygiene, atrophy of jaw muscles or choking. So finally, is lockjaw curable? We will fully describe some possible treatment below, so you will know how to get rid of lockjaw properly.

How to treat lockjaw?

Except for severe inflammatory conditions that require antibiotics drugs, the treatment of lockjaw is quite simple. We can treat lockjaw at home without invasive medical intervention. To reduce discomfort sensation, you should apply massages, physiotherapy and jaw exercises with analgesics and muscle relaxants. However, the earlier you treat lockjaw, the better result you would gain. To prevent atrophy of the jaw muscle and permanent jaw disorders, you should find proper lockjaw cures as soon as possible.

There are two options for lockjaw treatment: conservative method and irreversible one. As there is still a lack of studies to evaluate the safety and effectiveness of most jaw treatments, doctors recommend using conservative or reversible methods. This treatment does not invade the face anatomy structure, thus causes no permanent changes of the jaw.

In this part, we will list some possible medications of how to relieve lockjaw.

Pain control

 

pain control

A sore jaw is the most discomfort symptoms, so how to get rid of jaw pain is a primary need. This type of drug is the first-line conservative treatment. In almost cases, short-term use of over-the-counter painkillers is sufficient to ease the pain, such as Acetaminophen or Ibuprofen [3]. If the pain is more severe after treatment, your doctors will indicate other analgesics which have a stronger effect.

Muscles relaxants are essential if the spasm of the jaw muscles is overwhelming – which is the primary cause of pain. Antidepressants and anti-anxiety drugs also play a supporting role in pain relief [4]. In the case of inflammation, your doctor can prescribe a corticosteroid injection at the joint.

Stabilization splints

Stabilization splints, or bite guard as it called, is another conservation methods of lockjaw. This is an oral appliance made from plastic material to fit the upper or lower teeth. Many research concluded the potential benefit of this device in reducing pain severity at rest and when performing clinical examinations. Patients with stabilization splints treatment show less depression level than other groups [5]. If prescribed, this device should stay in your mouth for a short time and will not make any permanent changes in your bite.

Botox

Botox, or Botulinum toxin type A, is made from toxin of a bacteria. They have used this drug in plastic surgery industrial for a long time, as it was approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). By injecting a small dose of Botox in the jaw muscles, it helps reduce pain and improve mouth movements significantly. Scientists are studying the effectiveness of Botox in joint disorder treatment. However, many of them have claimed the potential effects of this reversible treatment [6].

Surgery

The first option of irreversible treatment is surgery, which invades the facial tissues. Surgery is a controversial procedure because of hidden risks. Experts do not recommend using this method, as surgery is not an alternative treatment in case of conservative methods failed.

If you decided to undergo a surgical procedure, make sure to consult your doctor carefully to have an overview of the benefits and potential risks of this method, as well as other alternative treatments available.

Implants

Choosing artificial implants means that you will have a temporomandibular joint reconstruction. Similar to surgery, this treatment also creates permanent and particular damages on your face. Until now, there is still a lack of adequate research as well as long-term clinical trials to evaluate the safety and effectiveness of implants [7].

Additional, if you suffered facial surgery before, it is likely to increase risks of a bad outlook or fake-smile-face. It is essential to understand the challenges of this method thoroughly and to get other independent opinions.

As medications and irreversible treatment always present their adverse effects, natural lock jaw remedies are more preferred. In this article, we will gradually guide you how to get rid of lockjaw and how to unlock your jaw at home in the fastest and easiest way.

How to cure lockjaw by doing exercise?

Lock jaw exercises

Jaw exercises is a vital treatment and prevention of lockjaw. Whether you have lockjaw or not, you should perform these exercises below to keep your jaw strong. First, it is necessary to relax the body muscles, especially your shoulder and jaw muscles. Relax the tongue and keep your upper and lower teeth apart.

  • Move the lower jaw vertically while your teeth are not touching. Unless you feel painful, try to open and close your mouth as widely as possible.
  • Move the lower jaw horizontally, as far as possible, still keep your teeth apart. Do the same movement on the other side, take a short break before repeating.
  • Hold your hand and place your thumb under your chin with a slight pressure. Try to open your mouth as much as possible with the resistance of the thumb. Vice versa, close your mouth while pressing the thumb against downward.
  • Place your palm at the lower jaw. Start moving the lower jaw side-to-side, while pressing the palm against the opposite side. Repeat the exercise on the other side.

To get the best result, you should perform lockjaw exercises at least ten times per day. If possible, try using the TheraBite System to correct the jaw anatomically, but consult your doctor before using this device.

Do Yoga

 

how to get rid of lockjaw

 

It may sound a little bit strange for you, but yoga is an amazing therapy that reduces stress actually, thus relax body muscles spasm and reduce lockjaw symptoms. The postures in Yoga are called asanas. Here we introduce some asanas that possibly improve lockjaw.

  • Downward Facing Dog: Touch the floor with both of your palms and heels, while your hips are facing the ceiling. Your body creates an inverted “V” shape. This posture increases blood flow to the face and jaw, as the head is moving downward.
  • Shoulder Stand: In this position, both of your shoulders rest on the mat, and the remaining body creates a 90 o angle to the ground. Be careful while performing and move your body slowly to prevent injury. This position also supports the blood flow to your head.
  • Legs Up the Wall: Lying on the floor with a wall in front of you, then stretching your legs upward on the wall as much as possible. You may feel discomfort at first, but this position will bring up a relaxed feeling after that.
  • Corpse pose: Finish the exercise by lying on the floor, your face and palms up and relax completely. With this asana, the muscles of the whole body are free from tension.

How to fix lockjaw at home?

Massage

Massaging the jaw joints and muscles acts as a natural painkiller to help ease the pain. Because the masseter muscles are over contracting and causing the pain, it is important to apply a mild pressure to prevent further damages.

  • First, find the tender point of the jaw area by using your index finger and middle finger. Rub two fingers of one hand along your chin and cheek, lightly press to locate the swelling or pain point.
  • Once you have found the point, move your fingers in a circular motion in a counterclockwise direction for half a minute.
  • Rest a little, and repeat the process in opposed direction. Remember to put a slight pressure on the underneath area.
  • Apply the massage for at least 5 minutes.

Hot compressor

Using heat is quite useful to relax muscles spasm and increase the blood flow to the local area. The recommended temperature for a hot compressor is between 104 to 113oF (equal to 40 – 45oC). Do not apply a high heat level, or it may burn your skin. However, if there is an inflammatory condition, move to cold compressor method.

  • To prepare, pour warm water in a bottle. Another way is soaking a towel in clean and hot water, then squeeze, or make a heating pad instead.
  • Place the compressor on the desired area for about half an hour.
  • If the water gets cold, reheat it again and keep holding on the affected area.

Cold compressor

While heat helps relax muscles spasm and increase blood flows, a cold compressor is extremely beneficial to reduce inflammation and ease the pain.

  • Prepare an ice pack by putting ice into a clean and dry towel, then apply on the jaw area.
  • Hold the bag still for several minutes, or until you cannot get the cold temperature. Take a short break, then repeat the process for 10 minutes.
  • If possible, use cold compressor 5-10 minutes after applying the heat, or you can switch between the two methods.

How to get rid of a locked jaw with dietary?

Increase Magnesium intake

Magnesium plays a primary role in the biochemical reactions of the human body, consists of muscle and nerve functions [8]. Lack of Magnesium consumption leads to muscle contraction and disorder of the nervous system. Therefore, increasing Magnesium intake can support in relaxing muscles and reduce tenderness in lockjaw. If you are confusing of how to unlock your jaw at home, keep adding foods that contain a great source of Magnesium in your diet.

  • Magnesium is available in green vegetables, nuts, and whole grains. Mineral water is a reasonable source of Magnesium, but the amount of this mineral depends on the brand.
  • The recommended amount of Magnesium in the male is 400-420mg per day, while in the female is 310-320mg per day. You can choose to take Magnesium capsules with equivalent consumption as a dietary supplement instead.

Get more Calcium

 

diet for lockjaw

 

Calcium is a fundamental element of bone structure and strength. Many neuromuscular disorders are related to the low amount of Calcium in your body, of which Tetany is not an exception [9]. Increasing Calcium intake results in strong jaw bones and prevents muscles spasm that might cause lockjaw.

  • Foods contain a good source of Calcium are milk products, green leafy vegetables, and fish.
  • In capsule form, the requirement of Calcium intake is 1000mg daily for adults. Take 1-2 capsules per day as a dietary supplement.

Provide vitamin D to your body

This vitamin is essential for Calcium absorption. Inadequate amount of vitamin D leads to weak bones and pain inside the bones, which might increase the risk of lockjaw. Make sure to have a good combination of vitamin D and Calcium intake to maintain healthy bones status.

  • Vitamin D is available in fatty fish, egg yolks, margarine, and cereals. Other milk products such as cheese, milk, and yogurt are also primary sources of vitamin D.
  • Similarly, vitamin D supplements are found in fish liver oil and fish oil capsules. Recommended amount of vitamin D is 600 IU (international units) daily for adults.

Note

Whether you have lockjaw or not, it is essential to keep healthy daily habits and know how to prevent lockjaw. Those treatments above are useless without having a proper lifestyle and physical activities. Please take note some useful tips below:

  • Always hold the right posture. While working on a computer, make sure to keep your head and back straight, your face is 50-70cm far away from the screen. Release your shoulder and neck to prevent muscles spasm. This right posture also helps you with other skeletomuscular diseases.
  • Do not grind your teeth. Grinding your teeth increase the risk of having TMD, as the joints and muscles have to work regularly and incorrectly.
  • Eat soft foods. Soup, cottage and cooked vegetables prevent the jaw and muscles from working hard. Remember to eat small bites and stay away from chewy and hard food, such as chewing gum or cartilage.
  • Drink at least 1.5 liters of water per day to hydrate your body and prevent muscles cramps.
  • Avoid wide yawning and singing.
  • In severe condition, consult a physiotherapist to have proper exercises for the jaw muscles.

Questions and Answers

1. What does lockjaw feel like?

It is associated with mild or severe pain at jaw area, sometimes just stretch without painful sensation.

2. How long does lockjaw last?

If the soft tissue is the only reason that causes lockjaw, it might take a few hours to suffer from it. But it could last for months and years unless the underlying condition is completely solved.

3. Can Tetanus be cured?

Tetanus is treatable with Tetanus antitoxin, antibiotics, and other medications to reduce severe symptoms. However, the risks of mortality are rather high as it affects the respiratory tract. Vaccinating is the most efficient method to prevent Tetanus.

4. What if my jaw keeps locking after trying home remedies?

You need to consult doctors or dentists to eliminate other acute and chronic diseases, as well as seeking proper medications.

Conclusion, there are many ways to prevent and control a locked jaw. After reading this article, you have known some methods of how to get rid of lockjaw with detailed instructions. Hope that this information is useful and fully provide what you are searching.

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