Jaw exercises for TMJ
Learn about TMJ, how it can affect you, and what you can do at home to alleviate the pain.
Understanding TMJ with Honeysuckle Dental
Many people think that dentists work solely with a patient’s teeth, but dentists are also responsible for your overall oral health. This includes the mouth as a whole (gums, tongue, etc.) jaws and the surrounding facial areas.
During a routine check-up, your dentist will not only examine your teeth and mouth, but the jaw and neck areas for any abnormalities as well. One area in particular which tends to cause patients pain is the jaw. This bone is constantly working while we bite, chew, and speak and over time, inflammation of the jaws can occur.
Anyone who has experienced this will know that it can be extremely painful, cause discomfort, and can affect your ability to continue with your daily life. We at Honeysuckle Dental in Newcastle understand this and offer TMJ treatments and advice to help alleviate your symptoms.
What is TMJ?
TMJ stands for the temporomandibular joint which is the joint that connects the lower jaw (mandible) to the temporal bones of your skull (located in front of each ear).
This joint works like a hinge allowing your jaw to move up and down and from side to side so you can chew, speak, and yawn. There are also several muscles attached to the lower jaw which control chewing.
When this joint becomes inflamed, is injured or damaged, it can cause pain known as temporomandibular joint syndrome or temporomandibular disorders (TMD).
Problems in this area (with the muscles and joints) can cause pain in the head, neck, face, and ears. The jaw can also get locked in position making it difficult to open which will cause problems with biting and chewing, making life more uncomfortable and difficult.
Causes and Symptoms of TMJ
TMJ syndrome (or TMD) does not have one main cause. However, there are several reasons for it occurring and many professionals believe that the symptoms arise from problems with your jaw muscles or the joint itself.
Other causes include:
- Injury to teeth or jaw
- Injury to the joint
- Trauma or injury to head or neck muscles (whiplash)
- Misalignment of teeth or jaw
- Grinding or clenching teeth
- Infection of the joint
- Bone deformity (occurs at birth)
- Poor posture
- Stress (can cause teeth grinding or cause you to tighten the muscles)
- Osteoarthritis (which is caused by the degeneration of the bone which accompanies aging)
- Chewing gum constantly
TMJ (or TMD) can cause severe pain and discomfort and can last from few minutes up to a few years and can affect either one or both sides of your face.
Symptoms on TMJ include:
- Pain in the jaw joint
- Ear pain/earache and hearing problems
- Ringing in the ears
- Clicking or popping sounds in ears when chewing (opening or closing mouth)
- Stiff or sore jaw muscles
- Pain in the temple area
- Pain or tenderness in face, jaws, neck, ears and even shoulders
- Pain or tenderness when chewing, yawning, or speaking.
- Pain when trying to open mouth wide
- Jaws ‘lock’ when either opening or closing mouth
- Uncomfortable bite
- Possible swelling in the face
Treatment for TMJ
TMJ syndrome usually responds well to home treatments such placing ice packs over the joint, mouth-guards, over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications, and gentle massages and stretches of the jaw and neck to ease pain.
If home treatment does not help, your dentist will recommend medical treatment which includes dental splints, prescription medications, physical therapy, and in severe cases, surgery.
In many cases however, TMJ syndrome can be relieved through home remedies and self-care like jaw exercises.
Jaw Exercises for TMJ
Due to the constant opening and closing of your jaw for eating, yawning, and speaking, the muscles in that area can become stressed causing you pain and discomfort.
If you find yourself experiencing some of the symptoms listed above, you can try these strengthening and stretching exercises to help soothe the pain.
Strengthening exercises are done to aid in building the muscles’ resistance to spasms effectively helping to keep it from recurring. It is important to note that these strengthening exercises should not be attempted during a TMJ syndrome flare-up as they can cause your more pain.
- Place your thumb under your chin. Push your chin downward and continue to open your mouth against the slight force of your thumb. Hold it open (as wide as you comfortably can) for 5 – 10 seconds and slowly close it. Repeat a few times a day.
- Open your mouth as wide as you comfortably can. Place the thumb and index finger of one hand under your chin and between your chin and lower lip respectively. Push your chin inward as you close your mouth. Repeat a few times.
Stretching exercises can help ease muscular tension and reduce pain. These exercises should also be avoided during a flare-up, but it is important to remember that if you experience more pain while doing these (even when relaxed), you should stop immediately and try again later.
- Using the tip of your tongue, touch the roof of your mouth. Then open your mouth as wide as possible (as far as you are comfortable with) and hold for 5 – 10 seconds.
- Using the tip of your tongue, touch the roof of your mouth. Then slide your lower jaw out as far as possible and hold for 5 – 10 seconds. Slide your lower jaw back in, as far as possible and hold for 5 – 10 seconds.
- Open your mouth as widely as possible and slowly slide your lower jaw back and forth several times.
- Look straight ahead. Glance to the right with your eyes only and simultaneously extend your lower jaw to the left and hold for 5 – 10 seconds. Return to normal position and repeat with opposite sides.
TMJ Treatment at Honeysuckle Dental
TMJ syndrome (or TMD) can cause severe pain and discomfort and make life difficult to live. While there are no definite causes or predispositions for this illness, there are a number of things that can contribute to the swelling and pain of the jaw.
By trying these jaw exercises, you can help alleviate some of the pain and symptoms associated with TMJ syndrome, and if it doesn’t help you, one of Honeysuckle Dental’s trained professionals will be happy to offer a diagnosis, treatment and advice to help you enjoy life more.
If you’d like to learn more about TMJ, or book an appointment, then call Honeysuckle Dental in Newcastle on (02) 4915 9230 or complete the query form on our Contact Us page.