Temporomandibular joint disorder is often abbreviated TMJ or TMD. This joint connects the jaw to the skull just in front of both ears. Moving the joint allows people to chew, talk, and yawn. Professionals don’t know what causes this disorder, but patients may experience frightening locking of the jaw. A dentist can help with issues from TMJ.
When closed lock occurs, a patient will be physically unable to open the mouth. Significant pain may accompany this situation, causing irritation and discomfort. Medical management or rehabilitation can be used to alleviate closed lock.
What to Do
If an acute closed lock occurs without the ability to open the mouth, a patient should seek medical intervention. A dentist or physician can examine the jaw to determine the best course of treatment. One common treatment involves manual stimulation of the gag reflex. By stimulating this reflex, the mandible will relax and cervical muscles will contract, which results in the jaw automatically opening. After the gag reflex causes the mouth to open, professionals will insert a temporary appliance that prevents full closure of the mouth.
To help prevent closed lock, patients can take steps to manage symptoms.
- Over-the-counter anti-inflammatories can help reduce swelling while alleviating pain.
- Alternating between ice packs and moist heat can also help with swelling.
- A physical therapist might also teach a patient basic jaw stretches, which can keep the joint moving.
- Attention to the jaw and body positioning may help avoid closed lock. Maintaining good posture and keeping the teeth set slightly apart at all times can be helpful for many patients.
If closed lock occurs, a patient should consult a dentist as soon as possible for treatment. After resolving the acute problem, professionals can provide guidance for managing TMJ and avoiding similar situations in the future.