While the level of pain can be at times very debilitating to a patent, if they do not require help as soon as possible, it is not a medical emergency. A medical emergency is based on a condition which without immediate intervention will become worse in its physical condition. In the world of TMJ this is called an "acute lock".
This condition occurs all of the sudden; an incident. If the jaw opens one day and the next it doesn’t, what has most likely occurred is the cartilage inside one or both joints has lodged between the bones and limits the opening ability to one finger width, and later to two finger widths.
***This condition requires immediate attention.
There exists a brief window of opportunity of a few weeks to slip the cartilage back into place and restore full opening. If this is not done soon enough, the patient will open wider and wider over time, however, they will tear the cartilage out of place forever. Permanent cartilage dislocations are not uncommon and do not require the patient to remain dysfunctional forever. However, maintaining the cartilage in its normal position remains a much better condition for the joint long term. The wait and see approach should not be used with acute locks.
Please schedule an appointment with Dr. DiStefano to discuss your concerns and care plan. As one of the premiere TMJ dentists in Howell, Michigan, Dr. DiStefano has over 30 years experience caring for his patients’ health. He strives to educate his patients and improve their lives through dental care and disease prevention.