What Can Cause Trismus?

Trismus is a medical condition marked by the inability of a person to move his jaw in a full range of motion. According to Ludlow Family Dentistry, PC‘s Dr. Joe Wegiel, trismus is something that affects the muscle that opens and closes the jaw and essentially stops it from working. A person who has trismus, therefore, is unable to open his jaw wide without experiencing extreme discomfort or pain. Wegiel, a dentist who treats people with trismus and also offers veneers and implants at his Ludlow practice, says that having this condition can make it extremely difficult to bite down without feeling pain in the area around the ear.

Unfortunately, Wegiel explains that there could be any number of issues causing someone’s trismus. The most common cause he sees in his practice has been mandibular injections of substances such as Novocain. The reason for this, as Wegiel explains, is that the muscles in the jaw can get irritated by the needle when a dentist injects a patient with Novocain for an otherwise common dental procedure. This irritation can lead to soreness, which is a hallmark of trismus, and can make it difficult for the patient to stretch the muscles in his mouth for a period of time.

Anesthesia has also been known to cause trismus, albeit temporarily. Patients who have undergone general anesthesia for a medical procedure will occasionally complain afterward of difficulty keeping their mouths open for long periods of time. This is a symptom of trismus, and there is a good chance their problems may have been triggered by their mouths staying open for an hour or more during medical procedures.

In cases where someone’s trismus has been caused by anesthesia or a needle injection, Wegiel recommends simply taking a few days and letting the jaw muscles relax. The symptoms of trismus are a sign from the body that the mouth is agitated and sore, and sitting back and relaxing is generally the best way to speed up the recovery process.

Another less common cause of trismus is when someone has a genuine temporomandibular joint problem, commonly known as TMJ. Although Wegiel sees more patients who need veneers than those who need help with TMJ, he does occasionally see patients whose trismus cases were caused by this painful condition.

Trismus can also be caused by a much more benign activity, although most people don’t realize it: chewing gum. An everyday activity as simple as chewing gum can cause trismus if a person does it too often. Wegiel says it is important for people to remember that all bodies are different, and that a single activity could trigger trismus in one patient but not another.

The good news about trismus, however, is that it does wear off eventually. A person whose trismus was triggered by a mandibular injection can expect the pain and discomfort he is experiencing to last for only a week or two, after which life should go back to normal fairly quickly. During the period of time when pain persists, Wegiel recommends not trying to open and close the mouth as much in order to let the jaw heal.

A dentist like Wegiel who handles everything from veneers to trismus should be able to stop the oral pain and sort out what is causing it. He recommends that people with jaw pain take a few days to relax, and then schedule an appointment with a dentist if the pain does not go away. Trismus is a reversible condition that will go away on it own, but there are cases where a dentist’s intervention may still be necessary.

*Disclaimer: The information on this website is not intended to substitute for the medical expertise and advice of your healthcare provider. We encourage you to discuss any decisions about treatment or care with an appropriate healthcare provider.

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