Stiff Jaw

Having a stiff jaw is not as uncommon a problem as one might think. But what can be the reason for such a condition, and how does one tackle it? This write-up will tell you just that...
When the jawbones become stiff, the condition can cause a hindrance to one's regular eating. The difficulty in opening and closing of the mouth could occur due to a chain of symptoms, be it a dental problem like the growth of a wisdom tooth, misalignment of a tooth, or even a fractured jaw. Jaw joints being flexible, a pain therein proves to be an obstacle in the very basic activities of everyday life like talking, chewing, yawning, and opening and closing of the mouth.

We shall now get a better idea about the common causes of a stiff jaw, the symptoms that are related to the condition, and also the treatment options that are available, through the following sections.

Factors Causing a Stiff Jaw

► Pericoronitis

This is a dental disorder due to improper tooth eruptions. A swelling around the gums of the erupted tooth may happen because of bacterial invasion. This is usually common with the case of wisdom teeth, and is noticed more among teenagers and young adults, wherein the person may experience severe pain or even fever. The collection of plaque, misalignment of a tooth, etc., are common causes too.

Painkillers are used to subside the pain. However, if severe in condition, oral surgery may be recommended. It can be stated that, most of the time, this condition does not return once the affected tooth is removed or the tooth is entirely erupted.

► Tetanus

Produced by the corruption of bacteria called Clostridium tetani, this bacterial infection arises from dust and soil. The bacteria enters through a wound or a scar on the body, and poisons the bloodstream. Though not contagious, leaving it untreated may have serious consequences.

It is absolutely necessary to be particular about dirty, dusty and rusty objects, especially when outdoors. Tetanus shots taken on the shoulder is the best way to deal with it, thereby getting away with the condition called lockjaw.

► Temporomandibular Joint Disorders

Commonly known as TMJ, it is considered the advent of a line of problems to follow. They are the joints that act as a bridge connecting the jawbone to the skull. The disorder is characterized with pain in the jaw joint and the muscles that control jaw movements, along with a popping and clicking sound while opening and closing the mouth. It is however complicated to arbitrate the problem, though it could be a combination of factors like arthritis, jaw injury or a broken jaw.

The pain can be lessened by self-managed care, yet severe TMJs may require surgery.

► Risus Sardonicus

It is the constant difficulty in stretching the facial muscles, which results in a grinning expression. This condition gets its name from the appearance of raised eyebrows along with a grin, and is termed as a rigid smile. It occurs due to tetanus and strychnine poisoning.

Possible Symptoms
  • Difficulty in opening or limited opening of the mouth.
  • Clicking, grating and popping sounds.
  • Excruciating pain in the cheek.
  • Pain in the jaw and area covering the ear while talking, chewing, yawning.
  • Toothaches, headaches, neck pain.
  • Difficulty in swallowing food.

Treatment Options
  • The foremost step is a simple, basic home remedy, that is to apply ice on the jaw, as it will help control the inflammation.
  • Get an X-ray done, and find out the status of the disorder, which shall provide a basis for further medication and treatment.
  • Practice jaw exercises, if advised, but avoid extreme jaw movements.
  • In case of pericoronitis, that is, the dental problems with respect to wisdom teeth and alignment of teeth, it is best to visit the dentist on priority.
  • In case of a TMJ disorder, get an analysis done at the earliest, and use the TMJ appliance, which is a pain relief option.
  • In case of Tetanus, go in for the tetanus shot, as it may prove fatal, otherwise.
  • If undergoing treatment, following the diet of soft foods like baby food, soups, nutritional drinks, and semi-solid substances, or as advised by the doctor, is crucial.

It needs to be taken into account that if there exists any longevity in stiffness, that is, an obstacle in the smooth movements of the jaw, the matter needs to be addressed at the earliest. Hence, it is always considered wise to consult a doctor at the earliest, and follow the medications prescribed, rather than correcting the situation by self-known methods.

Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is solely for educating the reader. Please visit your health care provider for specific diagnosis and treatment.