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Orofacial Pain and Temporomandibular Disorders


Jaw Locking

What is it?

Jaw locking can be quite frightening when it is experienced. Most people experiencing a jaw lock will find it either difficult to either open their jaw completely, or close their jaw properly, and at times need to manipulate the jaw back into correct position. Jaw locking is often accompanied with pain and generally indicates an underlying TMJ disorder. The Clinicians at Perth Oral Medicine and Dental Sleep Centre are experts in TMJ disorder diagnosis and management and are here to help you if you experience a jaw lock.


Common signs and symptoms

Common signs and symptoms of jaw locking include:

  • “Stuck” jaw sensation on opening or closing, that needs further manipulation of the jaw to correct

  • Pain at the jaw joints or in front of the ears when opening or closing

  • Restricted mouth opening

  • Pain within jaw muscles

  • Stiffness of jaw


There can be many causes for a jaw locking. The most common reasons include:

  • Trismus, meaning “muscle spasm”

  • Disc displacements

  • Jaw dislocation


While you may be able to manipulate your jaw back into position and normal function, diagnosing the underlying TMJ disorder is important to prevent future recurrence. It is therefore advised to seek treatment to determine an accurate diagnosis for the cause of your jaw lock. Our Clinicians at the Perth Oral Medicine and Dental Sleep Centre are experienced in diagnosing and treating the underlying cause to your jaw locking. At your consultation, your Clinician will conduct a comprehensive consultation, including an in-depth examination of your TMJ and TMJ function, to better understand the cause of your jaw joint noise. You may also require additional testing such as an MRI or a CT scan of your jaw joints to get more information about any underlying TMJ dysfunction.


Jaw locking can be a frightening experience, and as such it is important to remain calm if it occurs. Depending on your diagnosis, treatment given may range from manipulation of the jaw, to use of medications, heat packs, occlusal splints, injections or even TMJ surgery. The aim of treatment is to improve jaw function, reduce jaw pain and reduce recurrence of jaw locking.


Recovery for patients with jaw locking is dependent on their underlying diagnosis. Most patients become stable and can function without frequent episodes of jaw locking. However, some patients with jaw locking and associated TMJ dysfunction may require long-term management with our Clinicians to prevent the development of TMJ arthritis.

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