Locked Jaw

Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorders can cause severe pain or discomfort in your jaw joints and supporting muscles. TMJ disorders can also lead to headaches, earaches, or the inability to fully open or close your mouth (lockjaw). Chronic pain in your jaw bones or muscles are usually best addressed by a dentist. However, lockjaw can be a medical emergency that requires immediate attention, as it can begin to have serious effects on your health very quickly. It is also a common symptom of tetanus, which can threaten breathing and lead to death.

What to do

  • If your jaw locks in place and is impacting your ability to breathe, get immediate medical attention or call 911 for a more rapid response.
  • If your jaw is locked, but you can still breathe freely, contact your dentist immediately for an emergency consultation. Based on your medical and dental history, they can advise you on the most appropriate solution. If you have difficulty speaking, have someone contact the dentist for you.
  • Author: Symbyos staff, Fluent staff
  • Medical review: Thomas J. Greany DDS, 2/7/2021
  • Last updated: 2/9/2021