Locked jaw


Having the jaw locked or stuck in a certain position, with the mouth either opened or closed is an unpleasant situation and it can be very painful too. There are several conditions that can cause the jaw to get locked, the most common are described below.

Bad bite. When upper and lower jaws meet, it is very important that the bite in even. That happens up to 3.000 times a day, every time we eat, speak, and swallow. The forces produced when we bite are extremely strong and need to be distributed evenly across teeth and bones. A bad bite leads to  more tension in some areas, causing stress in the chewing muscles, jaw joints and ligaments. The stress can be so intense that the chewing muscles may function under spasm, which can temporarily lock the jaw joint.

Injury in the jaw joint. Inside the temporomandibular joint (TMJ or jaw joint), there are several structures that can get damaged, including nerves, arteries, ligaments and a disc, which functions as a cushion between the surfaces of the bones between the lower jaw and the skull. Under severe stress from a bad bite or from teeth grinding and clenching, the disc can be dislocated, causing jaw lock. Some people develop pain and other symptoms in the head and neck area as a result of dysfunction in the TMJ, a complex condition associated with chronic bad bite and potential jaw lock.

Stress, excessive chewing, rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis and tetanus (a serious bacterial infection) can also trigger a locked jaw.



When you have bite issues and problems at the TMJ, in addition to a locked jaw, you can also experience the following symptoms:

  • Headaches, earaches, dizziness
  • Clicking or popping sound when opening your mouth wide
  • Painful sensation when opening the mouth, chewing, yawning
  • Changes in the way your teeth fit together when you bite

If you have any of those symptoms, there is a chance that you have a bad bite and/or injury in the TMJ and should get it corrected as soon as possible before it can become even more serious.



If your jaw is locked, you might need acute intervention to reestablish movements and alleviate the pain. However, if the underlying cause is not addressed, it will probably happen again.

The orthodontist can recommend the use of a mouthguard, which is a custom-made plastic device that fits to the upper teeth. It helps reposition the jaws to relax the muscles and the jaw joint and improves the distribution of forces; in addition, it prevents the contact between upper and lower teeth, protecting them from wear.

However, correction of the bite is the most important measure, because it deals with the primary cause in most cases, preventing future problems. Getting a functional bite can result in long-lasting relief for bad bite, TMJ dysfunction and all the complications associated with these two conditions.



Clear aligner therapy offers a modern solution to correct the alignment of teeth to one another and across the jaws, in order to balance the bite. Even when the front teeth are straight, bite problems can still be present in the back teeth. These removable plastic devices are designed to shift teeth into better positions. Every 2-3 weeks, you get a new set of clear aligners, until all alignment problems are solved.

Through a digital process, the clear aligners are printed according to the specific treatment plan. They are easy to place and remove, making treatment more convenient and flexible.

Medical orthodontics can make a huge difference in your bite and consequently in your life quality and wellbeing.