Some common misunderstandings revolve around the term “lockjaw.” Those who suffer from TMD may might claim that they have “lockjaw”. However, there is an actual condition that has no relation to TMJ whatsoever called “lockjaw.” We can see the characteristics of each of these conditions to determine the differences between them.

The Misconception About Lock Jaw 1

“Lockjaw” From TMJ Disorder:
Numerous TMD patients are prone to experiencing a painful condition where their lower jaw randomly “locks” in place, remaining static, making it increasingly difficult to move the mouth at all without a lot of pain. Although, many people claim this as lockjaw, it is actually something entirely different known as TMD jaw stiffness.

Causes for this aggravating TMD jaw stiffness include engorging of the muscles around the jaw such as the neck and face. This pushes along the jaw muscles which can create the locking or stagnant effect.
The Misconception About Lock Jaw 2

Another cause could be with the actual jaw joint. Some people can have their articular disc-a band (the cartilage between the jaw and the skull) become disfigured especially through grinding of the teeth, sport injuries, genetically, or inflaming of the muscles around the jaw.

Where the original term for “lockjaw” came from:
Tetanus is a serious bacterial infection that is the source of muscle contractions within the jaw. Therefore, it is a totally, different more serious problem than TMD. Luckily, in the 21st century, there are vaccines that can treat it. Tetanus is the condition commonly referred to as “lockjaw.”


If you suffer from TMD jaw stiffness or jaw locking, now you know what to call it with your doctor or dentist. As a gnathological neuromuscular dentist, Dr. Sid Solomon specializes in fixing jaw locking problems and curing TMJ.

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