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Is Lockjaw a Dental Emergency | Manhattan TMJ Dentist

August 2nd, 2018 | 2 min read

By NYC Smile Design

Lockjaw occurs when muscle spasms cause the jaw to remain tightly closed. Attempts to open the jaw can be extremely painful and even with effort may prove unsuccessful. When lockjaw is a complication of tetanus, it can take weeks or even months for the condition to clear. When it is related to TMJ or another oral health issue, it may continue to occur periodically over the course of your life until you seek proper treatment.

It should be noted that, while tetanus is often considered the primary cause of lockjaw, it is actually less common than jaw stiffness caused by misalignment, bruxism, and other oral health issues. However, when tetanus is the cause, immediate medical attention is needed. Lockjaw is a symptom that occurs after the infection has been in the body for some time and its onset may indicate a medical emergency.

An inability to open your mouth may also be a dental emergency. If you have been diagnosed with TMJ or another oral health disorder and you develop lockjaw, our NYC emergency dentists may be able to provide near-instant relief through various muscle relaxation treatments, including BOTOX® Cosmetic, while working on a larger treatment plan to address underlying causes. Only through the treatment of the root cause of your jaw pain can long-term results be achieved.

Lockjaw Dental Emergency | New York City Emergency Dentits

Is NYC Smile Design a 24/7 Emergency Dental Service?

Dr. Elisa Mello and Dr. Ramin Tabib make every effort to see patients experiencing dental pain and trauma in the shortest amount of time possible, but we are not a 24/7 facility. We will schedule patients experiencing dental emergencies for same-day appointments when possible, but encourage you to visit the closest Urgent Care if you are in need of immediate help and our office is closed.

Under most circumstances, lockjaw caused by TMJ or an oral health issue will not necessitate immediate treatment, though we will make efforts to treat your condition in the shortest amount of time possible. In the meantime, you can help lessen your discomfort and encourage your muscles to relax with:

  • Over-the-counter pain medications like ibuprofen and naproxen
  • A warm washcloth or compress
  • Gentle jaw massage

While the entire masseter muscle can be massaged, it may be most useful in the case of lockjaw to apply gentle pressure to the notch just underneath your cheekbone, about one inch in front of your ears. According to an article on, applying constant pressure or massaging in kneading circles at this spot can help the large masseter muscle release.

Even after seeking treatment for your jaw pain, massage may be useful at helping keep the jaw muscles relaxed. This, along with other at-home treatments for jaw stiffness, can be discussed in greater detail during your appointment.

If you are experiencing jaw pain, lockjaw, or another dental emergency, please call NYC Smile Design at 212-452-3344 to schedule an appointment right away. We offer urgent dental services in Manhattan to men and women living in all surrounding areas.