Locked Jaws, Oral submucous fibrosis (OSF) is a common condition occurring due to the consumption of tobacco, pan-masala, gutkha, areca nut, etc.
Most people can open mouth around 40mm wide.
OSF causes a gradual decline in the opening of the mouth, and after some stage, the person may not be able to fully open the mouth and the front teeth to be removed for liquefied food.
Depending on the extent of the habit and genetic factors, the length of chewing gutkha and pan masala before Locked Jaw develops will vary from a few months to many years.
Arecoline, an active alkaloid present in Pan-Masala and Gutkha encourages fibroblasts to raise collagen production.
Locked Jaws has a high morbidity risk as it induces a gradual failure to expand the jaw, contributing to feeding problems and consequent nutritional deficiencies.
Here are the main reasons for the locked jaw:
Anxiety can develop parafunctional habits. A common parafunctional habit could be to grind your teeth (bruxism).
This occurs when you clench your teeth while not knowing this, which, together with the muscles, tendons, and ligaments that protect your jaw, will produce a lot of pain in your teeth and jaw.
This might leave you in extreme pain. Stress can also be a big problem for other health issues.
- Temporomandibular Joint Disorders
Your temporomandibular joint is situated at the sides of your face under your eyes and towards your ears.
The muscles, bones, tendons, and ligaments that control the jaw meet in this joint. A Locked jaw is also called TMJ. Symptoms of TMJ include jaw stiffness, difficulty in fully opening mouth, and jaw pain.
Since TMJ is often a chronic condition, even after it recovers, the locked jaw can occur again.
If your doctors see any TMJ symptoms, they may do some physical testing to check what’s happening.
- Untreated cavity
Plaque is a soft, sticky film that grows on your teeth with millions of bacteria that comes from your food and drinks. You require to brush it regularly, or it may cost your teeth.
Sometimes plaque can destroy tooth enamel, resulting in tooth decay. Plaque may also grow under the gum at the tooth roots and cause bone loss that protects the tooth.
In some cases, this untreated cavity can cause a locked jaw.
Tetanus results from a neurotoxin released by Clostridium tetani, a bacterium that is usually found in the environment.
Tetanus toxin can cause muscle spasms that can damage the heart muscles, chest muscles (impair breathing), or any of the voluntary muscles in the body, including the muscles in the jaw.
Nevertheless, tetanus is extremely rare in most parts of the world because of immunizations that protect against the infection. So it’s the least common cause of locked jaw.
- An impacted wisdom tooth
Healthy wisdom teeth that are in the right position do not usually cause complications. Some time due to a lack of space, your wisdom teeth split through your gums just partially. That can allow a gum tissue flap to rise over them.
The flap will hold food and cause infection with the gum.
Your jaw isn’t big enough to give them space.
Your wisdom teeth may get trapped in your jaw (impacted) and not be able to break through your gums. So you may face Pain or jaw stiffness near an impacted tooth.
Infections in and around your mouth or jaw muscles, such as a peritonsillar abscess, can affect jaw movement leading to a locked jaw. In rare instances, an infection may permanently damage the nerve or muscle, possibly subjecting to repeated locked jaw episodes.
Many antipsychotic medicines may influence the activity of the nerve function and may predispose or induce a locked jaw.
Painkillers can rarely cause a severe condition called malignant hyperthermia, which can lead to muscle spasms like a locked jaw.
If you’ve had a locked jaw, you can run the risk of getting it again, so it’s important to talk with your doctor regarding prevention.