To many, lockjaw is synonymous with tetanus, which is a bacterial infection that is characterized by painful muscle spasms and can even lead to death. But lockjaw can occur even if you don’t have tetanus. So what causes this painful condition?
What Is Lockjaw?
Lockjaw is a painful condition that causes muscles in your jaw and neck to spasm, making it difficult for you to chew and talk. Most people suffering from lockjaw can only open their mouths an inch or two wide. Although it can be a symptom of tetanus, you can also develop lockjaw without having the disease. Lockjaw can occur if you have had cancer treatments performed on your head and neck or if you suffer from TMJ (Temporomandibular Joint Dysfunction).
How Do I Know If I Have Lockjaw?
A good way to tell if you have lockjaw or trouble opening your mouth is through something called the three-finger test. First, you place your index, middle, and ring finger together and turn them vertically. Then put them between your front teeth. If your fingers are fitting comfortably, then you probably don’t have lockjaw.
Other symptoms of lockjaw include headache, dry mouth, dental issues, difficulty speaking, and earache.
It is important to seek treatment for lockjaw as soon as you notice any symptoms for it. If you have TMJ, it’s important to see your dentist to seek out treatment. This may include using a tongue depressor to slowly stretch your muscles over time, taking over the counter medications, getting physical therapy and/or massage, and eating soft foods to keep your energy up.
Every individual case will have a different treatment plan, so if you are experiencing spasms in your jaw and neck, make an appointment with your dentist right away. At Red Oak Family Dentistry, it is our mission to help our patients lead happy and healthy lives. We look forward to seeing you at our office soon! Contact us to schedule an appointment today!