Exercises for TMJ Pain

Dental Health
By: Spirit Dental
March 26, 2019

Man looking in mirror running jaw

If you’ve been diagnosed with TMJ, you know how painful it can be. But you don’t have to live with the discomfort. In addition to working with your dentist to determine what treatment options would be right for you, there are also easy exercises for TMJ pain that you can do at home. A few of those exercises are described below to help you get started.

Exercises That Strengthen and Stretch the Jaw

When your TMJ pain has subsided, you can try some strengthening exercises to help prevent the pain from recurring.

Start by placing a thumb under your chin and then pushing down against it to open your mouth slowly. Be gentle the entire time, using your thumb to provide resistance. Once your mouth is open, remain there for just a few seconds. Then slowly close your mouth.

To help stretch things out, try pressing the tip of your tongue against the roof of your mouth. Next, open your mouth slowly, going only so far as you can without it hurting. Once you experience pain, you should stop. You don’t want to force things.

As an alternative stretch, you can begin with your jaw relaxed, the mouth closed, and the teeth apart slightly. Open the mouth slowly and go as wide as you can, but at the same time, look up only with your eyes. Then, for a few seconds, hold the mouth open before closing it slowly. You’re not done yet, though.

The next step involves moving only your eyes so that you’re looking to the right as you move the jaw to the left (your mouth should be closed). Hold for a few seconds, make your way back to the starting position, and then move the jaw to the right and look with your eyes to the left.

Exercises for Reducing Clicking in the Jaw

Many people who have TMJ complain that their jaw “clicks” when they open and close it. The appropriate exercises can help strengthen, as well as release tension from, the muscles of the jaw joint so that the clicking may be reduced or prevented.

Start in a relaxed position, sitting upright. Then, close the mouth so that the teeth touch, but don’t clench. Simply rest the tip of your tongue on the roof of your mouth behind the front teeth.

Next, move your tongue towards the back of the mouth, as if you wanted to reach the soft palate with the tip of the tongue. As you do so, keep the teeth together, without clenching. Once you reach that area in the back of the mouth, open your jaw slowly until you start to feel that the tongue is pulling away from the roof of the mouth (you might start to feel some tension under the chin and in the back of the neck). Stop there, remain in that position for a few seconds, close your mouth again, and relax.

Try repeating this exercise for about five minutes. If you’re doing it right, you won’t hear any clicking in the joint. You might need to practice a bit, and you might need to adjust your positioning to stop hearing the clicks in the joint.

If you experience pain or discomfort after doing this exercise the first few times, that’s normal. As your ligaments grow stronger and the muscles used to close the mouth start to relax, it should get easier and the discomfort might go away. It may take up to three weeks, though, to retrain your muscles so that there’s no clicking or pain when you close and open the mouth.  

Not Getting Any Relief? Time to Talk to Your Dentist!

Although you can certainly try these TMJ exercises at home, if you are not getting any relief at all, it’s best to talk to your dentist. There are several different treatment options available, so don’t hesitate to discuss what could be the best approach to getting you to be pain-free again. Plus, your dentist can also give you pointers on things you should avoid doing in order to prevent TMJ pain in the first place. This professional advice is invaluable, and with the right dental insurance, you can get the help that you need without having to worry about breaking the bank.  


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