If Your Jaw Locked Once, It Might Happen Again

Boutique Dentistry for Nashville, Tennessee

People have a tendency to ignore TMJ symptoms. This is a problem because these symptoms are warning signs that dysfunction in your jaw is worsening, and will need more serious treatment in the future.

One symptom that people tend not to ignore, however, is a locked jaw. This can be a terrifying moment, and people feel that they need to do something about it. But once they get their jaw moving again, they may think that their jaw is “fixed” and they don’t have to worry about it.

That’s not true: if your jaw locked once, there’s a high probability that it could lock again.

Young woman standing in front of a mirror with her jaw locked open. While this is the first time she's experienced this, it might happen again and should look into treatment for TMJ.

Popping and Clicking Are a Warning

Most often, people’s jaw’s lock because the joint gets blocked by the cushioning disk that is supposed to sit between the two bones in the joint. This disc can slip out of place and then back in. As it does this, it can make popping or clicking sounds. You might also notice that the jaw has an irregular motion when this happens.

Sometimes, though, the disc doesn’t slip back in. This keeps the jaw from opening or closing. Gentle maneuvering of the jaw joint can help the disc slip into place, but it always has the potential of getting locked again. And it might not slip into place so easily that time.

The Jaw Is Suffering Damage

In addition, every time the disc is out of place, the jaw itself is suffering damage. The bones grind together when the cushioning disc isn’t there to keep them apart. This has several problems.

The bones can grind away at the ligament that is supposed to hold the cushioning disc in place. When this ligament breaks, the disc has a much harder time getting back in place.

The grinding can also cause changes in the shape of the jaw joint. As these two bones change shape, they might not accommodate the disc so well, making it harder for the disc to slip back in place.

Finally, the grinding of the bones can release tiny bone shards into the area around the joint. These bone shards can irritate the surrounding tissue, causing it to swell. When these tissues swell, they may no longer accommodate the cushioning disc anymore.

Heed the Warnings to Avoid Surgery

When the cushioning disc won’t go back in place, we have to take more serious action to treat your TMJ. This can mean major or minor surgery. TMJ surgery has a poor track record: low odds of success and high odds of complications. It’s also expensive and can take a long time to recover from, sometimes weeks with your mouth secured shut.

We want to try to head off the need for surgery by treating TMJ early. If we address it in its early stages, we can use nonsurgical approaches to protect the jaw joint, postponing or even preventing the need for surgery.

If you are looking for a TMJ dentist in Nashville, please call (615) 383-6787 today for an appointment with Dr. Kent E. White at the Center for Advanced Dentistry.