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Neuromuscular Dentistry - TMJ FAQ

Question:
My jaw has been locking up off and on for the past two weeks and on Saturday morning it locked up and hasn't unlocked since. Right now it's Sunday. It will only open about 1/2 of an inch.

I can barely brush my teeth and my breath is starting to smell. I can barely eat and it takes about an hour to eat a burrito. I don't have pain - I just can't open my mouth. Before I used to just relax my jaw, shift it to the side and that was it.

But now that doesn't work. My mom doesn't think there is anything wrong with me but I know there is. My question is - How long should I wait to go to the doctor and am I going to have to have surgery? Visitor from CA

Answer:
It sounds like you have a tmj joint issue going on. Your jaw joint pops off and gets out of socket and will need to by re-positioned into place. I recommend you call first thing in the morning and get in to see someone.

Surgery is very un-common for jaw disorders. Usually, surgery is only reserved for severe bone disorders or fusion of the joint. This option does not sound like anything you will need. You may need some anti-inflammatory meds such and Motrin or some muscle relaxants for the joint and possibly some physical therapy.

Often, patients with jaw lock problems will need to have some kind of splint therapy to re-position the joint into a more comfortable place. As for the immediate concerns, you should use ice followed by heat to break the muscle spasm and go in to see your dentist in the morning.

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