Why does my jaw keep locking?

Why does my jaw keep locking? Temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMJD) or temporomandibular disorder (TMD) may be to blame if your jaw pops or makes a clicking sound, followed by pain. However, if you’re popping in your jaw without any accompanying discomfort, it’s a good idea to find out what’s causing it.

Why does my jaw keep locking?

Why is your jaw popping or locked up?

Temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMJD) or temporomandibular disorder (TMD) may be to blame if your jaw pops or makes a clicking sound, followed by pain. However, if you’re popping in your jaw without any accompanying discomfort, it’s a good idea to find out what’s causing it.

A wide range of factors can have a role, including:

• Bites on the inside of the cheeks or lips

• Jaw clenching

• Chewing gum excessively (or even regularly)

• Teeth clenching or gnashing

You can also get your jaw to pop and lock up if you’re suffering from a variety of jaw-related ailments like arthritis, temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMJ), overextension, and other issues with the temporomandibular joint (TMJ).

Causes of locked jaw

1. Temporomandibular joint disorders (TMD or TMJD)

TMD is characterized by discomfort in the jaw joint and the muscles that surround it. One or both hinge joints may be painful or locked as a result (temporomandibular joints). Between the mandible and the temporomandibular bone are these joints.

TMD can also induce throbbing or aching pain in the ear, jaw, or face, as well as soreness. The sensation of pain may be exacerbated by chewing food. A clicking or grinding sound or sensation can also be produced while chewing. TMD discomfort is usually only there for a short period and can be treated at home.

2. Stress

Anxiety and tension might cause your jaw to clench or teeth to grind unintentionally while you’re sleeping. It’s possible to sleep with your jaw clinched without being conscious of it. Jaw tension and pain are common side effects of these habits, both while you’re sleeping and when you’re up. When you eat or talk, the pain may get worse. Tension headaches are another common symptom of stress.

3. Teeth grinding (bruxism)

Stress, heredity, or dental issues like misaligned teeth can all contribute to bruxism or clenching of the teeth. Insomnia can lead to the development of bruxism. Even if you’re awake, it can happen, and you may not even be aware of it. As a result of bruxism, the face, neck, and upper or lower jaw may become stiff or feel sore. Headaches and tinnitus are also possible side effects.

4. Excessive chewing

Excessive chewing of gum or any other material might lead to lower jaw stiffness (mandible).

5. Rheumatoid arthritis (RA)

Inflammatory autoimmunity characterizes rheumatoid arthritis (RA). It has a widespread impact on the muscles and joints of the body. Around 80% of RA patients have TMD, a condition characterized by jaw pain and tightness, according to new research published in 2015. The jaw joint and the tissues around it can be damaged by RA. It can also lead to jawbone loss.

6. Osteoarthritis (OA)

Osteoarthritis (OA) can occur in the temporomandibular joints, but it is extremely rare. The jaw bone, cartilage, and tissue can all degenerate and degenerate to the point of loss of function. This may lead to a sore, tense jaw. Aside from localized discomfort, pain may radiate outwards from the site of impact.

7. The disease tetanus

Lockjaw (tetanus) is a bacterial infection that can be lethal. Stiffness in the belly and throat are common symptoms, as are painful jaw and neck muscle contractions. Preventing this infection is made possible with the tetanus vaccine (Tdap). The most reliable source of tetanus vaccine in the US.

8. Facial trauma

Face injuries can also damage the section of the jaw that moves. This might cause discomfort or tightness in the muscles. Even cancer therapies such as surgery or radiation can cause jaw damage, as can blunt force, such as a striking injury.

Exercises to relieve jaw tightness

You may be able to loosen your jaw muscles with specific workouts and stretches in some circumstances. Try one of the following:

1. Manual jaw-opening exercise

As a warm-up, make a series of little opening and closing movements of the mouth. Then, put your fingers on the tops of your bottom four teeth, starting from the bottom left. Slowly lower your jaw until you experience a tingling sensation on the side of your jaw that is particularly tense. Slowly return your jaw to its starting position after holding it for 30 seconds. Repeat this stretch 12 times, starting with 3 repetitions to get a feel for the stretch.

2. Stretching the jaw joint

The jaw and neck muscles are stretched as a result of this workout. Your tongue should rest on the floor of your mouth behind your front teeth without contacting them. The next step is to gently press down with your tongue. Take a deep breath in and gently open your lips wide, then slowly close them back down.

Stop when you start to experience pain. You may do this as many times as you like. However, if this workout gives you any discomfort, you should stop.

3. Smile stretch

The upper and lower jaws, as well as the neck, benefit from this stretch. The biggest smile you can muster without experiencing any tightness or pain is the best smile to display. Slowly widen your jaw 2 inches wider while smiling. Breathe while letting go of the smiling as you take a deep breath in through your mouth. You may do this as many times as you like.

Mouthguards for tight jaw

If you wake up with a tight jaw because you clench or grind your teeth at night, you may advantage from wearing a mouthguard. Mouthguards come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Depending on the underlying cause of your illness, you may require a certain kind of treatment. You should seek advice from a dentist or a doctor on the best mouthguard for your needs.

Mouthguard for grinding teeth

A dentist may suggest a mouthguard if you’re clenching and grinding your teeth while you sleep. This will aid in reducing tooth wear and tear. It may also alleviate jaw discomfort and tension. Many different materials can be used to make bruxism mouthguards, from strong acrylic to softer polymers. Mouthguards can be purchased over-the-counter from a variety of manufacturers, but getting one designed to fit your particular mouth may be preferred.

More expensive than store-bought mouthguards, custom-made or 3D-printed mouthguards allow you to customize the thickness to match the severity of your clenching or grinding. They’re also better at decreasing jaw strain and aligning your jaw naturally than store-bought alternatives. A dentist can advise you on the most suitable option.

Mouthguards for joint conditions

A mouthguard termed a splint may be recommended by your dentist if you suffer from joint diseases, such as TMD. Splints are often created to order from either hard or soft acrylic. The mandible is held in a forward stance, protruding toward the front of the mouth, by these splints. Your lower jaw and surrounding muscles will be less strained as a result.

In some cases, a dentist may prescribe that you wear the nighttime splint 24 hours a day. From months to years, treatment may be necessary.


Increasing blood flow and reducing muscle tension can both be helped by massaging your jaw. Open your mouth and lightly massage the muscles around your ears in a circular motion to see if this works for you. The temporomandibular joints are found in this location. As many times as possible throughout the day.


Around 80% of RA patients have TMD, a condition characterized by jaw pain and tightness. Osteoarthritis can occur in the temporomandibular joints, but it is extremely rare.

What is a disorder of the temporomandibular joint?

The lower jaw (mandible) is linked to the skull’s temporal bone by the temporomandibular joints (TMJ). Located just in front of the ears, there are two of these joints, one on each side of the skull. To eat, speak, and yawn, one must move the jaw using the TMJ. To open, close, and move the jaw, the joints are joined by a soft disc of cartilage that serves as a hinge. In addition, it functions as a shock absorber and lubricant.

They lose their ability to function if they are harmed or put under stress. You may have trouble moving your jaw, hear strange noises, or have other symptoms.

What’s causing TMJ pain?

It’s not always feasible to pinpoint the exact etiology of a TMJ condition. Instead of focusing just on addressing the symptoms, your dentist or doctor will strive to narrow it down. Although women are more prone to have TMJ problems than men, these illnesses can affect anyone, regardless of their age or sexual orientation. Another risk factor for TMD is a history of jaw disorders running in your family.

TMD can be caused by any of the following. To alleviate discomfort and restore proper jaw function, it is usual for the underlying cause to be a mix of factors.

Treatment of jaw and temporomandibular joint diseases

Each person’s TMJ treatment will be different, as conditions and symptoms are based on what is most likely to be causing the problem. Your dentist or doctor may question you about your symptoms, medical history, and other factors to reach a diagnosis. An x-ray, CT scan, or MRI may be used to look for injury to the jaw joints.

After determining the reason or causes of TMD or another ailment, they can devise a treatment strategy that is effective. Any of the following may apply to your specific situation.

Treatments at home

Jaw discomfort, clicking, and other TMJ symptoms may go away on their own if the underlying cause isn’t serious, but you don’t have to suffer while they do. In order to alleviate pain and relax your jaw joints, your dentist or doctor may suggest one or more of the following:

• Eating meals that aren’t too hard or chewy

• Slicing meal into smaller portions

• Avoiding the use of gum

• Avoiding tooth grinding or clenching

• Limit the amount of air you breathe in

• Applying a cold compress or ice pack to the injured joint

Relaxation techniques

If your dentist suspects that anxiety or other psychological factors are contributing to your TMJ problems, he or she may suggest that you seek counseling or discuss relaxation techniques like deep breathing exercises or massage therapy.

Jaw exercises

TMJ problems may be alleviated if you focus on strengthening your jaw muscles on a regular basis. Overworking your jaw muscles could exacerbate your symptoms, so seek advice from your dentist or physician before attempting this at home.


Treatment for TMD isn’t available in the form of a specific drug, although medications can help manage symptoms or address the underlying problem. TMJ pain and discomfort can be alleviated with the use of painkillers and anti-inflammatory medications. If your dentist or doctor thinks it will assist, they may also suggest a muscle relaxant.

If you suspect that your TMD is caused by another medical issue, it’s important to stick with your treatment plan, even if your symptoms improve over time.

Treatment for bruxism

TMJ issues can be alleviated if you’ve been diagnosed with bruxism. Treatment for teeth grinding or clenching may include any of the following, depending on the underlying cause:

• Dental or orthodontic operations to align the teeth

• Attempting to stay away from potentially upsetting circumstances

• To prevent tooth grinding, sleep with an anti-bruxism mouthguard.

Treatment for sleep apnea

TMD may be caused by obstructive sleep apnea, which necessitates an overnight sleep study for diagnosis and therapy planning. This could include, but is not limited to:

• Being consistent with your bedtime routine

• Shedding pounds

• Abstinence from ■■■■■

• The use of constant positive airway pressure

• An operation to remove the impediment from the airway


TMD may require jaw surgery in more severe cases, however, this is extremely unusual. Your surgeon will go over the potential risks with you so that you can make an informed decision about whether or not this procedure is right for you. TMJ can be treated surgically if the jaw or joints have been injured.


Facial trauma can also damage the section of the jaw that moves. If you wake up with a tight jaw because you clench or grind your teeth at night, you may benefit from wearing a mouth guard.

Frequently Asked Questions:

Following are some of the important questions:

1: Is it normal for your jaw to lock?

Your jaw shouldn’t be clicking, popping, or locking like that. It also is not healthy. It is a sign of a deeper issue with your jaw or the muscle around it, perhaps brought on by TMJ.

2: Why does one side of my jaw lock?

These issues are typically brought on by misalignment or injury to the tendon, ligaments, and/or cartilage that are involved in jaw movements. When TMJ pain is severe, the joint may painfully “lock,” making it impossible for the sufferer to move their jaw until the joint is corrected, which occasionally necessitates surgery.

3: Will lockjaw simply disappear?

The majority of the time, lockjaw is only brief, but if it persists, it can be fatal. Even swallowing can be impacted by severe lockjaw, which also affects how the face looks. It is uncomfortable and challenging to speak, eat, and practice good ■■■■ hygiene while you have a lockjaw.

4: Should I visit the ER if my jaw is locked?

Additionally, if your jaw stays locked open or closed, you should always visit the emergency department. The emergency department physician can manually realign the jaw. You should not attempt this at home. Sedation is frequently required if the jaw is shut and locked.

5: Can tension lead to a locked jaw?

Even lockjaw, a disease when muscle spasms prohibit you from widening your mouth widely, can result from too much stress in your jaw.

6: What can I do to untie my jaw at night?

Teach your teeth not to grip or grind. Put the tip of your tongue in between your teeth if you discover that you tighten or grind your teeth at work. You can learn to relax your jaw muscles by doing this. By pressing a hot cloth against your cheek in front of your earlobe at night, you can relax your jaw muscles.

7: How long does it take to get over lockjaw?

The majority of trismus episodes are transient, often lasting less than two weeks, although some may be chronic. We examine the causes and signs of trismus in this post. We also examine the available therapies for this illness right now.

8: How serious is lockjaw?

Tetanus is a dangerous bacterial condition that damages the muscles and nerves and is also known as lockjaw. It is marked by muscle rigidity, which initially affects the jaw and neck before spreading to other body areas. Heart defects or significant breathing problems can both cause death.

9: Can a dentist fix a locked jaw?

Even if you were able to move your jaw once again, the jaw lock is a sign that your articular disc has suffered severe damage. It’s crucial to seek treatment from a qualified TMJ dentist to prevent further harm and potential locking. Historically, the initial treatment for a locking jaw was frequently surgery.

10: How is a locked jaw on one side fixed?

To relax the jaw muscles and joint, massage it. This is useful for easing the discomfort and stiffness that come with a lockjaw flare-up. A combination of alternately applying heat and cold can help ease jaw pain. For ten minutes, use an ice pack or cold compress on the side of the face close to the jaw joint.


If your jaw pops or makes a clicking sound, it might be time to check it out. Temporomandibular joint disorders (TMD) cause discomfort in the jaw joint and muscles surrounding it. TMD discomfort is usually only there for a short period of time and can be treated at home. Around 80% of RA patients have TMD, a condition characterized by jaw pain and tightness. Osteoarthritis can occur in the temporomandibular joints, but it is extremely rare.

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