Lockjaw or trismus, as it is medically known, refers to diminished opening of the jaw which occurs due to a spasm of the muscles of mastication. It is a rather commonly seen problem which has a host of causes and can impede speech, eating, oral hygiene, and may also change your facial appearance.
Temporary lockjaw is commoner than permanent and can be quite upsetting and painful, and restricts or prevents medical examination or therapy which needs entry in to the oral cavity.
What Causes A Locked Jaw?
The following are the etiological factors for lockjaw:
- Tetanus caused by the bacterium Clostridium tetani is a chief cause for lockjaw.
- An oral surgery such as excising the wisdom tooth is a commonly seen cause.
- Certain habits such as clenching the teeth, grinding the teeth and chewing fingernails are linked to lockjaw. On the other hand, everyone who has these habits does not develop trismus.
- Infections in the mouth and parotid abscess.
- Tumor of the bone at the region of the temporomandibular joint (TMJ).
- In the elderly, arthritis of the TMJ is likelihood.
- Meningitis and brain abscess.
- Trauma to the jaw
Symptoms Of Lockjaw
The temporo-mandibular joint is a sliding hinge joint that allows the lower jaw to connect to the upper jaw. Being a hinge joint, the upper and lower jaws work in harmony. In case of a lockjaw, the following clinical features become apparent:
- Cannot open the mouth completely.
- Talking, chewing and other movements of the jaw are very painful.
- Pain around the ear.
- Swelling of the temporomandibular joint in case of infection.
- Clicking sound when the jaw is moved.
- Spasm of the jaw muscles.
How To Treat A Locked Jaw?
Your health care provider or dentist needs to be consulted immediately. The doctor will ask if you have been vaccinated against tetanus. He will look for swelling, redness, and inflammation around the joint. The following guidelines will help allay the lockjaw:
- In case the tetanus vaccine has not been given, he should be immediately vaccinated with DTaP.
- Your doctor will prescribe non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs to manage the extreme jaw pain. Muscle relaxants may also be given, since they help if spasm of the jaw muscles is too severe.
- In extreme cases steroid injections into the jaw are advised.
- Anti-biotics become necessary to control infections and abscesses.
Home Remedies For Locked Jaw
- Ginger is an excellent home remedy for lockjaw. Ginger is packed with gingerols which allay inflammation and swelling and consequently the pain, almost instantly. Have a glass of ginger tea twice daily. You can use a straw to sip the liquid.
- Physiotherapy is another alternative which helps keep the jaw muscles supple.
- Compresses – either cold or hot can be tried for pain relief.
- Have fluids and soft food and steer clear of hard and sticky foods
- Meditation and relaxation exercises are of immense benefit in those cases where stress is the cause.
If all the above mentioned therapies fail to assuage the discomfort, you will have to opt for surgical intervention.