Lockjaw also known as trismus is when the muscles in the jaw spasm and affect the movement of the jaw. When a person gets lockjaw, their jaw may be stuck in a certain position or they might not be able to open the jaw or mouth wide. Lockjaw is a painful condition which can happen suddenly and get worse over a few hours. It usually affects both sides of the jaw. There are many muscles and nerves that control the movement of the jaw and because of their arrangement, the position of a lockjaw is normally slightly opened. The symptoms of a lockjaw include:


  • The inability to fully open the mouth
  • Headaches
  • Earaches
  • Pain in the jaw
  • Speech can be affected because you can’t control your mouth
  • Trouble swallowing as the jaw is in an open position
  • Dry mouth caused by not being able to swallow
  • Sore or inflamed mouth because you cannot swallow


If you are still experiencing lockjaw after a few days it is important that you book an appointment at Smile Hub Dental Clinic in Bayside medical Centre to have it examined. This is important as lockjaw can start to affect your health if it is not dealt with. Some complications that can occur with a persistent lockjaw include tooth decay, ulcers and gum disease because you are not able to brush your teeth or floss properly. The enamel of the teeth can wear away and teeth can crack due to the teeth grinding from being in the same position. It can be very painful and difficult to eat with a lockjaw which can lead to malnourishment in some cases. Muscles can contract and stiffen which can be a lot harder to treat than a muscle spasm.


There are many different causes of lockjaw. A lockjaw is a muscle spasm that can occur from an injury to the muscle, nerve, tendon, bone or ligament. Another regular cause of lockjaw is hypocalcaemia which can happen during thyroid surgery. Temporomandibular Joint Disorder (TMJ) can develop after a facial injury, arthritis or and inflammatory disease. The temporomandibular joints at the side of your face and meet with all of the tissues that control your jaw. TMJ is a chronic disorder which usually causes lockjaw multiple times. Infections around the mouth and jaw can cause changes to the movement of the jaw leading to lockjaw. If an infection has lasting damage on the jaw it could mean recurrent events of lockjaw. Medications can have an affect of the way our nerves function which may lead to lockjaw. If you have had cancer around the neck or the head, the treatments for it can sometimes injure the structure of the jaw which can increase the chances of getting lockjaw by 30%. Tetanus is a life-threatening condition which release toxins that cause muscle spasms in a number of muscles including the jaw. Tetanus almost always causes lockjaw which is the reason lockjaw used to be called tetanus. In most countries tetanus is very rare due to immunization against the infection.


Lockjaw can be diagnosed by an examination by one of our dentists here at Smile Hub Dental Clinic in Bayside Medical Centre. If necessary, our dentists may refer you to an oral surgeon if they think there is an underlying condition causing lockjaw. Muscle relaxers are sometimes prescribed to help the muscles to relax.


If you think you have a lockjaw and would like to have it examined book an appointment here at Smile Hub Dental Clinic on 01 5253888 or Book Online.


Frequently Asked Questions

How do I treat lockjaw?

  • Apply a warm compress throughout the day to help loosen the contracted muscles.
  • Use a cold compress to help relieve the pain.
  • Try to correct your posture. Sit up straight and when in bed lie on your back.
  • Eat foods rich in magnesium and calcium as they help the health of the nervous system which can relax the muscles.
  • Try to do jaw exercises to loosen the muscles. It can be painful but will help.
  • Drink water to help the jaw muscles to stay healthy.

What are the symptoms of locked jaw?

  • Cramps in the jaw
  • Sudden muscle spasms that can even occur in the stomach
  • Painful stiffness around the body
  • Find it hard to swallow
  • Seizures
  • Headache
  • High Temperature and sweating
  • Blood pressure and heart rate rising or declining

Does stress cause lockjaw?

Stress can sometimes lead to lockjaw as the constant tension on your jaw while stressed can cause an injury or a muscle spasm which prevents you from opening or closing your mouth.

How long does a lockjaw last?

It depends on the person but lockjaw should usually get better within a few days but if it does not go it is important that you get it examined by a dentist or doctor as there could be an underlying condition causing it. If it is cause by an infection you may be prescribed antibiotics which will help with lockjaw in about 10 days.

Should I see a doctor or dentist for jaw pain?

In many cases lock jaw or jaw pain is not serious and should go away in a few days. If you are experiencing other symptom with jaw pain that is not going away, it could be a more serious condition that may need treatment. If so, it is important to see a dentist or doctor to get it examined and get the corrective treatment.

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