What Happens If You Get Lockjaw?

Many people think lockjaw is tetanus, but the truth is lockjaw is only a symptom of the infection. It is a condition whereby you are unable to open your mouth properly due to muscle stiffness. The actual name of lockjaw disease is Trismus. There are a number of complications which are attributed to by this disease. Since it affects the jaw muscles, it makes it difficult for someone to talk, eat and even smiling. Lockjaw is not a harmful ailment and is often a sign of other diseases or health issues such as tetanus. You can easily manage stiffened jaw muscles with home remedies or medications to ease the tension on the muscles.

What Is Lockjaw?

Trismus or rather lockjaw is a condition that affects the jaw muscles. It affects the temporomandibular joint, which connects the jaw to the temporal bones of the skull. The joint is what enables you to freely move your jaw up and down and sideways as well. On top of that, you are able to speak, chew and yawn with ease. When the joint is compromised by, let’s say, tetanus toxin, the muscles surrounding the joint stiffen making it difficult to move your jaw. On normal occasions, you can open your mouth as wide as 1.5 to 2.3 inches. However, if you have a lockjaw disorder, your mouth barely opens up to 1.4 inches wide.

What Happens If You Get Lockjaw?

Lockjaw is caused by a number of other health complications including tetanus and inflammation of soft tissue. It is categorized as a temporomandibular joint disorder (TMD), because it affects the jaw, face and neck muscles. Tetanus is a serious bacterial infection that affects the central nervous system and muscles throughout the body. This is due to the toxins released by the bacteria that causes the infection. The jaw muscles are surrounded by soft tissue and they can easily swell if one chews too much or overworks their jaw. Grinding or clenching your teeth can also cause lockjaw because the temporomandibular joint is suppressed to unnecessary pressure. Other causes of lockjaw include; oral diseases, fevers, arthritis in the joint and stress which can make you tighten your facial and jaw muscles.

The common symptoms of lockjaw disease are;

  • Inability to open your mouth fully
  • Pain around the jaw joint area, face, neck and ear
  • Headaches and earaches
  • Difficulties speaking, hearing, smiling and swallowing
  • Poor oral hygiene due to dental problems
  • Dry mouth
  • Malnourishment due to difficulties eating
  • A tired feeling in your face and sometimes it may swell on the sides

Treating lockjaw

Lockjaw is not a serious condition and you can alleviate the symptoms with medication and home remedies. You can do a self-test to assess the extent to which the disorder has affected your mandibular area. You can do so by placing your index, middle and ring finger between your front teeth together. If they it, then there’s need for little concern. But, if you are unable to fit the fingers, then you should see a doctor for treatment and further diagnosis.

In treating lockjaw, one receives dental treatments alongside physical therapy to help with moving your jaw and relieving muscle spasms. You can unlock your jaw by applying a heat pack to your jaw, applying pressure on the mandible muscle with your fingers or wiggling it side to side. Alternatively, get a prescription of pain relievers, muscle relaxers, anti-anxiety medicine or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. In addition to that, avoid eating hard foods and avoid extreme jaw movements.


It is important that you get treatment for a lockjaw as soon as possible to prevent rigid or deformed jaw joints. In most cases, lockjaw is as a result of a tetanus infection, but can be caused by a number of other factors. The most imminent effect of a lockjaw disorder is difficulties moving your jaw muscles, which can make it difficult to speak, eat and even move your facial muscles. There are several treatment options you can consider depending on how serious the condition is and what works best for your body. You should also take good care of your mandibular area and not strain it too much to avoid the risk of a lockjaw disorder.

Also Read:

Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:June 9, 2022

Recent Posts

Related Posts