A locked jaw can be very inconvenient, painful and sometimes serious. The term refers to a variety of more specific symptoms, such as inability to close the jaw, inability to open the jaw, and inability to move the jaw laterally. Treating the symptoms requires identifying the underlying causes, and there are very simple, basic signs that will lead you to the right solution.
Examine your range of motion. Almost always, a jaw that has opened but will not close is a forward dislocation of the jaw joint. In this case, the lower jaw is firmly wiggled down and back until the joint resets. A jaw that won't open, and isn't having spasms or swelling, is likely an anterior dislocation, and the treatment is the reverse. The upper jaw is firmly rocked up and forward.
Be wary of the signs of a more serious condition. Tetanus frequently results in locked jaw problems, and is easy to recognise. Repeated spasms occur, and they can be eased with heat packs on the jaw joints temporarily. Always consult a doctor if your locked jaw is accompanied by spasms in the jaw muscles.
Keep an eye out for swelling. Swelling can be a sign that an abscessed tooth or some other infection is responsible for the locked jaw. Early identification and action is rewarded with less invasive and simpler treatments, so be sure to report to a dentist immediately if you have swelling around the jaws or acute pain.
Consider more frequent and targeted treatments if locked jaw problems occur frequently. Individuals with especially chronic symptoms should consult their dentist, and may find that use of a TENS system (Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulator) helps immensely. This system works by using electrical pulses to expand and contract the jaw muscles, which lessens tightness in the joints. Other treatments include orthotics to realign the jaws properly and special exercises to strengthen a weak joint. These exercises are tailored to specific conditions and should be reviewed with a trusted dental professional before use to avoid worsening your condition.