Temporomandibular jaw disorder (TMJ) includes a variety of disorders that cause pain, discomfort and tenderness in your jaw. A strong and healthy jaw helps you chew, talk and yawn; jaw problems may interfere with these functions and cause you distress and discomfort. Jaw exercises may alleviate muscular tension surrounding your jaw, reduce your pain and help your condition.
Causes of Jaw Pain
Stress, genetics and grinding your teeth may cause and exacerbate your jaw problem. A jaw injury, structural misalignment and arthritis may also play a role in jaw pain. Clenching your teeth or eating certain hard or chewy foods may worsen your jaw pain. Meeting with a doctor or dentist may help you determine what causes your jaw problems.
Significance of Jaw Exercises
Jaw exercises help retrain the muscles surrounding your jaw to function properly. Proper functioning helps relieve muscular tension created by incorrect movements, including grinding and clenching your teeth. The Atlanta Dental Group PC reports that jaw pain often occurs when tight jaw muscles are unable to remove lactic acid and waste buildup, causing discomfort. Stretches and exercises lengthen and alleviate the tight muscles, help remove buildup and may reduce your jaw problems and pain.
Doing a variety of stretches and range-of-motion exercises helps your jaw work through different patterns of movement. Resisted mouth opening, resisted mouth closing, side-to-side movement, forward jaw movement and the tongue-up exercise all strengthen your jaw muscles, improve its range of motion and may prevent future jaw problems.
To do resisted mouth opening, sit comfortably and position your thumb underneath your chin. Simultaneously, push your chin down as far as possible and push your thumb up lightly, creating tension between the two. Hold for six seconds and then release.
To do resisted mouth closing, open your mouth, place your two thumbs under your chin and position your index fingers between your mouth and chin. Simultaneously close your mouth and push down on your chin with your fingers.
To do side-to-side movement, place two tongue depressors in between your front teeth. Move your jaw slowly side to side while keeping the depressors in place.
To do forward jaw movement, keep the tongue depressors in place, move your bottom jaw forward, stopping when your bottom teeth are in front of your upper teeth.
To do the tongue-up exercise, touch your tongue to the roof of your mouth. Keeping your tongue in place, alternate slowly opening and closing your mouth.
Benefits of Jaw Exercises
TMJ exercises may alleviate symptoms related to jaw problems: clicking, popping, lock jaw, muscular tightness in your face, headaches and neck pain. If incorrect chewing, poor jaw movement or stress cause or exacerbate your pain, the exercises may help relax your jaw muscles and guide them through proper ranges of motion. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center's website, anxiety and stress may cause you to grind or clench your teeth while you sleep. Relaxing your jaw muscles with stretches and exercises may reduce your the amount of grinding you do at night.
Applying a wet, warm cloth to your jaw loosens up your muscles and reduces tension. If your jaw is very tight or if you are just starting an exercise routine, warming your jaw before doing the exercises may ease discomfort and difficulty. If structural jaw misalignment, a worn disc in your jaw, or a bad or uneven bite causes your jaw pain, you may need a medical intervention such as a brace to alleviate your pain. Consulting with a doctor or dentist before starting a jaw exercise program ensures that you follow the treatment plan best for you.