My Jaw Locks: Do I Have TMJ?

My Jaw Locks: Do I Have TMJ?

If your jaw locks, you may find this an extremely worrisome symptom. While it’s certainly alarming when it happens, it’s not always a sign that you have a problem with your temporomandibular joint (TMJ.)

While TMJ problems are one of the most common causes of your jaw locking, other things can cause it as well. Dr. Joseph Z. Yousefian of Yousefian Orthodontics for Children, Teens and Adults in Bellevue, Washington, explains more about what causes your jaw to lock and things that you can do to try to get relief.

What is TMJ?

TMJ stands for the temporomandibular joint. It acts like a hinge between your upper and lower jaws, connecting them to your skull. When this joint is misaligned, it can cause problems with your jaw and facial muscles. TMJ disorder can frequently cause headaches as well.

Symptoms of TMJ disorders may include:

Other causes of your jaw locking

While TMJ disorder is the most common cause of your jaw locking in the open or closed position, other things can cause it. 

Stress is the most common cause that’s not related to your TMJ. Stress can also cause you to grind your teeth, a condition called bruxism. This condition can make your jaw stick in the open or closed condition. You may grind your teeth in your sleep and not even be aware of it.

Chewing gum is also a contributing factor to your jaw sticking, especially if you do so frequently.

Other causes of a locking jaw include osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis.

How to treat a locking jaw

If your jaw is locking frquently, you may feel like you want to do whatever you can to stop it. One of the best things to do is to practice using relaxation techniques. You can start by making small motions with your jaw and stretching it until you feel it become slightly uncomfortable, then releasing it back to the beginning position.

You can also do the smile stretch: While holding your mouth in a smiling position, stretch it until you are opening your jaw an additional two inches. Inhale deeply through your mouth, then exhale and release.

Some types of TMJ disorders will go away on their own over time.

How to treat TMJ disorders

If you have a TMJ disorder and it’s not going away, you can try one of two different approaches.


The first approach we may try is injecting your facial muscles with Botox. This injection is made from a purified form of the Botulinum toxin (OnabotulinumtoxinA.) Its effect is to essentially “freeze” the muscles, so you don’t have to worry about your jaw locking. Botox generally lasts for a few months, at which point the injection may have to be repeated to achieve the same results.

Platelet-rich plasma

The second approach we may try is called platelet-rich plasma, or PRP. This method takes a highly-concentrated form of your blood and injects it into your facial muscles, which stimulates growth and healing factors.

If you experience your jaw locking, you may want to schedule an appointment for an evaluation by Dr. Yousefian. Call his office today or request an appointment online.

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