Sunday, January 31, 2010

Lock Jaw

There is an old joke where a patient is sitting in his doctor's office. He explains, "Every time I raise my left arm above my head, I get this shooting pain that flashes through my body." When he asked what he should do about it, the doctor said, "Don't raise your arm."

For several years now, I have this situation where my jawbone will fall out of its socket on the left side. This usually happens when I am eating a bagel or something hard to chew (see the joke above). It does not happen all the time, but often enough to be a concern. I can resolve the problem with a slight push on the jaw ... popping it back into the socket. It is not that painful, just uncomfortable. Well, that is not entirely true. If I have a big yawn, the jaw can pop out of place and that is painful until I push it back into place. I spoke with my neurologist about the problem a few years ago and he said that this situation was not uncommon for someone with Kennedy's Disease.

Recently the same problem has begun to happen at night when I sleep on my left side (again, see the joke above). It does not happen every night, but often enough to be a problem. About a year ago I started doing some jaw exercises in hopes that it will strengthen the jaw muscles. So far, it appears these exercises are helping.

This jaw problem has also become an issue when I see the dentist because I have to hold my mouth open (wider than normal) during the cleaning and examination. Fortunately, I discussed this problem with my dentist and he now uses a plastic brace to hold the mouth open while allowing the jaw muscles to relax.

For years, I had a similar issue with my right hip. It would occasionally pop out of joint for a moment when standing up from a chair. Over time, and with the help of some side-strut exercises, the problem went away. I am hoping that the same will happen to my jaw problem.

I realize that it would have been easier to give up bagels, only sleep on my right side, and avoid the dentist, but then I would not have anything to write about.


  1. I too had problems with jaw pain in the mornings.

    While browsing a store for a new pillow I discovered that there are "side sleeper" models. They are thicker than a back sleeping version. Since I have switched to the side sleeper my jaw problems have gone away.

  2. Bob, thanks for commenting on this issue. I value your insight and experience as I am sure other readers will.
    ... stay upright, guy ...

  3. I've been experiencing this for years now. I didn't find any time to go and visit a dental clinic until last week. I asked several dentists before about lockjaw (trismus), and some of them suggested that tetanus and other infections are the causes of this. I will ask my dentist in Memphis about it and what I could do to cure it. I just hope I find something helpful soon enough.


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