If you are experiencing headaches, jaw pain, or other symptoms related to temporomandibular joint disorders (TMJ or TMD), it’s not a bad idea to try some jaw exercises to help reduce, relieve, or eliminate symptoms.
Jaw exercises are a type of home care for TMJ that can be effective for people looking to resolve symptoms and potentially prevent their return. Here’s how you can use jaw exercises to help your TMJ symptoms.
5 Questions about Jaw Exercises
Remember, we always recommend that you ask five questions about any type of TMJ home care before you attempt it. Ask, is it:
- Appropriate–or should I seek professional care?
In general, jaw exercises are not harmful. Note that we’re talking about mild jaw exercises, such as we describe here. Extreme jaw exercises that could potentially be harmful to your jaw joint and muscles. Avoid these types of exercises.
The scientific evidence for the effectiveness of exercise for TMJ symptoms is relatively slight. It doesn’t have a clear benefit or advantage. Nonetheless, most TMJ experts recommend exercises as a treatment approach, believing it’s effective for some TMJ symptoms.
TMJ exercises are not expensive at all. You do most exercises with no equipment, and the rest require simple household objects.
The exercises we recommend here are not complicated. Most people can do them just by following our instructions. There is little risk of doing them wrong in ways that will harm you.
As far as the last question, exercises are appropriate if you have mild to moderate pain or slight difficulty opening your mouth. However, if symptoms persist for more than a week, start to worsen, or recur regularly, it’s time to abandon exercises and other home care to seek professional help. You should also stop doing any activity that causes pain.
This should be the simplest exercise for TMJ relief. Simply put your tongue on the roof of your mouth and relax your jaw. Your lower jaw should pull downward, letting your teeth separate. Do this at least five times to start.
There are two different types of this exercise, partial and full. Do several repetitions of the partial goldfish before doing the full goldfish.
For the partial goldfish, place your tongue on the roof of your mouth. Place one finger on one or the other temporomandibular joint (located just in front and below your ear). Place one finger from your other hand on your chin. Lower your jaw about halfway, then close it. Don’t provide active resistance, just the simple contact of your finger.
For the full goldfish, repeat as above, but open your jaw fully before closing.
Stand straight, with your chest out and your head level. While keeping your head level, pull your chin back. If you create a double chin, you’re doing it right. Hold for three seconds, then repeat.
Place your thumb under your chin, pushing gently upward. Open your mouth slowly and hold at the fully open position for at least three seconds. Then close your mouth and repeat.
Open your mouth. Apply downward pressure on your jaw by pinching your chin between each hand’s index finger and thumb. Close your mouth. Repeat.
For this simple exercise, put your tongue on the roof of your mouth, then open and close your mouth slowly. Repeat several times. This should feel like a relatively relaxing stretch of your jaw muscles after the more strenuous exercises. Feel free to repeat until your muscles feel more relaxed.
Put something between your front teeth to space them apart about a quarter of an inch. A pen works pretty well, but other people like to use a stack of tongue depressors or popsicle sticks. Holding this object gently between your teeth, move your jaw from side to side slowly. You can increase the object’s size if you feel this exercise has gotten too easy.
Forward Jaw Motion
Again, place a ¼-inch object between your front teeth. Move your lower jaw forward until your bottom teeth are in front of your top teeth. As with the above exercise, you can increase the object’s size between your teeth to keep improving your flexibility.
How Often Should You Exercise?
The goal of these exercises is to stretch and strengthen your jaw muscles. You don’t want to do too much at first. Start by doing sets of five of each exercise three times a day. If that’s too much, you probably need professional care. If you notice that it’s helping, but perhaps not enough, gradually increase the number of repetitions or add an extra session. Don’t step up the increases too much–you want to make sure you’re not stressing your jaw.
Help for TMJ in Denver
If you have tried home care and it’s not working, it’s time to get professional care for your temporomandibular joint disorders. Denver TMJ dentist Dr. Kevin Berry is prepared to help. Please call (303) 691-0267 or use our online contact form to request a consultation at the TMJ Therapy & Sleep Center of Colorado.