Is Lockjaw a Dental Emergency?  

February 22, 2022 - toothbar - 0 comments Woman holding her locked jaw in pain
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Everything you need to know about Lockjaw

Listening to your body is a good tip on how to relieve lockjaw symptoms. However, this solution is not enough if the condition affects your normal, day-to-day functioning. It’s important that you know when the condition is serious and you need to seek help from a professional.

Lockjaw, also known as Trismus, occurs when a spasm in the jaw muscle holds the mouth shut, making it difficult or impossible to open. People afflicted with this condition find it difficult to speak, eat, and move their jaws easily.

Many of them can perform these actions but slowly and painfully. They have to live with a jaw that always looks stiff and rigid. Austin cosmetic dentist includes treatments to improve the function and appearance of the jaw.

Most common symptoms of Lockjaw

Facial pain, headaches, jaw popping, difficulty opening and closing the mouth are symptoms of lockjaw. One of the primary causes of black lockjaw is infection. If you experience these symptoms, schedule an appointment with Toothbar, a cosmetic dentistry practice in Austin Texas that can treat lockjaw to improve appearance and function.

When does lockjaw occur?

Lockjaw occurs when swollen muscles around the jawbone restrict the ability to open the mouth. Swollen and inflamed muscles contract, causing severe pain and spasms. Sufferers of this condition find it difficult to speak, eat, swallow, and move their jaws. Although some can perform these actions, they do so painfully and slowly.

The sufferers have to endure living with a rigid and stiff jaw constantly. Other symptoms include:

  1. Headaches
  2. Earache and ringing in the ears
  3. Popping or clicking of the jaw
  4. Clenching of the teeth
  5. Malocclusion
  6. Facial pain

These symptoms could all be signs of lockjaw. The Austin cosmetic dentists at Toothbar offer treatments, like Austin Jaw Botox, to get you back on track.

What Causes Lockjaw

During a muscle spasm, the muscle remains in its active position and cannot relax, causing a lockjaw. Several factors can cause lockjaw:

Temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ): This condition is the leading cause of lockjaw. TMJ aids in chewing and speaking by connecting your lower jawbone to your skull. When there is a disorder in this joint, it causes lockjaw. There are several causes of TMJ disorders, including inflammatory diseases, arthritis, and facial injuries.

Infections: An infection in the jaw muscles or mouth, especially if it is an abscess, can make moving the jaw difficult. Also, infections of the oral cavity, such as tonsillitis, can sometimes cause lockjaw. In rare cases, an infection can permanently damage your muscles or nerves. If so, you may experience recurring episodes of lockjaw.

Tetanus: When Clostridium tetani spores enter the bloodstream, tetanus occurs. It is an environmental neurotoxin that is life-threatening. It can cause muscle spasms. There is a significant connection between lockjaw and tetanus, and the condition may not clear up for weeks or even months.

Cancer: Radiation therapy or carcinoma removal, surgery, and other radiation treatments for cancer may damage the jaw structure and limit its movement. Studies suggest that you have about a 30% chance of developing lockjaw if you have head or neck cancer or have undergone treatment for these types of cancer. Other causes include:

Malocclusion: Sometimes, yawning or chewing can cause unnecessary stress to the jaw, face, and neck. In this condition, the top teeth do not line up correctly (malocclusion), causing nearby muscles to become inflamed, irritated, and tense. This results in a locking sensation.

Injuries: The jaw consists of bone, muscles, and cartilage. The cartilage keeps the jawbone from rubbing against the skull. An accident, clenching, or grinding can damage this cartilage. The cartilage can slip over the bone when damaged, preventing the hinge joint from working.

Side Effects: Lockjaw can also rarely be a side effect of some medications, such as those used for mental disorders.

When It Is a Dental Emergency

Many cases of lockjaw are temporary and last for several days but not longer than two weeks. Someone can develop temporary trismus after undergoing a dental procedure. The dentist may require you to keep your jaw open for as long and wide as possible. This could trigger an episode of trismus. An incident could happen if a dentist accidentally injects a needle or medicine in the affected jaw muscle.

Lockjaw becomes a dental emergency when it interferes with normal activities that are required to be productive at work or school. A qualified emergency dentist should provide round-the-clock services and have the skills to treat this condition immediately.

In some cases, the pain of having trismus becomes too unbearable. An emergency dentist can prescribe painkillers to the patient or numb the affected area temporarily. Austin Cosmetic Dentist providers can recommend tips to reduce the chances that a sudden incident will occur.

After an emergency visit, a follow-up appointment is common. Some lockjaw patients have underlying conditions that have damaged their jaws, such as the TMJ disorder. Common symptoms are pain and restricted movements of the jaw. In severe cases, oral surgeons are called in to treat tumors or severely damaged muscles through surgery.

Anyone who has ever had a lockjaw, regardless of the reason why knows how painful and discomforting the condition can be. You need a proper diagnosis and an individualized treatment plan to resolve this problem.

Our Austin cosmetic dentistry treatments are designed to improve the physical appearance of your mouth and jaw. Our Austin preventative dentistry services help our patients to prevent the problem from recurring.


A variety of aspects of lockjaw can negatively impact the quality of life. Lockjaw can make it more difficult to communicate. With the mouth partially closed, it is hard to speak clearly. Moreover, lockjaw can reduce the size of the resonating oral cavity, reducing the voice quality. A severe lockjaw makes the insertion of dentures difficult or impossible. When the mouth opening is too small, it may be difficult to see the site properly during an examination.

Contact us

Lockjaw compromises oral hygiene, makes swallowing and chewing difficult, and contributes to aspiration. So, schedule an appointment with an Austin Cosmetic Dentist today at Toothbar or call: 512-949-8202.


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Our team is ready to book your appointment. The proper Dental Care can make the difference in years to come. We don't just improve the
aesthetics of your smile, we make sure your dental health is set for the long run.

Schedule your visit now

Schedule Your Visit Now

Our team is ready to book your appointment. The proper Dental Care can make the difference in years to come. We don't just improve the aesthetics of your smile, we make sure your dental health is set for the long run.

Schedule your visit now