This week brought two new patients that have locked jaws. Their “TMJ joints” either have been displaced or they are having muscle spams. There was a significant differences in age as well as both sexes.

So what do we do? First, I always start with a full exam. This includes history of the injury or event along with full dental exam. I check muscles and all the related supporting structures to get an idea of the extent of the problem.

A word about x-rays: I recommend a complete set of x-rays as well as additional x-rays of the TMJ. For the x-rays of the TMJ, there is a single cone x-ray called an I-Cat. The I-Cat gives a great hard tissue view of the bone. If I need additional information after I see the I-Cat, I may request an MRI. This kind of X-ray will fill in the blanks of soft tissue information that the I-Cat will not have.

With the combination of the exam, history and supporting documentation can give me a great idea as to the health of the TMJ and a prognosis. Having an accurate diagnosis is what dictates treatment and projected outcome. Based upon this information, I design and make a TMJ splint. A well designed TMJ splint is essnetial for TMJ treatment as well as for aiding in the diagnosis.

Locked jaws are nothing to waste time about. One of the most important factors determining recovery is the time lapse between the event and a visit to your dentist. Time is critical. The sooner care is started the better the chance of complete recovery. I am pleased to say that I expect these two patients from last week to make good recoveries.

Dr. Sperbeck, West Los Angeles

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