Bruxism is a condition that occurs when you frequently clench your jaw, especially at night, according to Medline Plus. This condition can be extremely painful, as bruxism can wear down the teeth, affecting your bite and causing headaches, earache, sore jaw and increased sensitivity in the teeth. In order to reduce these symptoms, physical therapy exercises for the jaw and tongue can be utilized. These exercises are designed to improve balance and function to the jaw area and can be performed daily.
The positioning exercise from the Nicholas Institute of Sports Medicine and Athletic Trauma involves re-training the tongue and jaw as to the proper position to remain in. Practice this several times throughout the day in order to ensure your tongue is in the correct position. To begin, close your lips and slightly open your jaw in a relaxed position. Place your tongue on the top of your mouth—also known as the palate. Hold in place for several moments, taking deep, relaxing breaths. This is the position you should endeavor to hold the tongue and jaw in throughout the day.
Another method to encourage proper tongue and jaw positioning comes from Dr. Christopher Y. Chang of the Fauquier Ear Nose & Throat Consultants of Virginia. To begin, place the tongue on the top of your palate—just behind your front teeth—and ease the tension in your jaw muscle. Now, say the letter “N” either to yourself or out loud. This is where your tongue should be resting and demonstrates the neutral jaw position you are trying to achieve. Dr. Chang recommends attaching sticky notes with the letter "N" to common areas in your home or office to remind you to practice this tongue position.
Tongue Muscle Relaxation
Tension in the muscles can further exacerbate bruxism jaw pain. Your goal should be to relieve both stress and tension in your jaw and the stress and tension that ultimately led you to clench your jaw. This exercise from Dr. Jeffrey Tucker on the Interactive Healer website can help you achieve tongue muscle relaxation. To perform, position your tongue as far back as you possibly can in your mouth. Leaving your tongue in this position, slowly open the mouth as much as you can. Close your mouth and repeat 20 times. Repeat as needed throughout the day.