TMJ can result in a host of unpleasant symptoms from headaches to tinnitus to vertigo and more. But all of these diverse symptoms stem from one fairly simple problem: imbalance of the jaw. The temporomandibular joint, which is complicated and fragile, can be displaced by trauma, or a bad bite. Once that joint is out of balance, the muscles in the jaw can never be at rest, and that constant tension spawns all kinds of painful and uncomfortable symptoms as a result.
But just like with any other muscle tension, proper stretching and strengthening can alleviate pain. While at-home exercises can’t cure TMJ, they can certainly reduce discomfort and help lessen the impact of the symptoms. Here are a few you can do at home.
Exercises to Strengthen the Jaw
By strengthening the muscles that control the jaw, you can better train your jaw to sit in the correct alignment, relieving tension.
Oxford University Hospital suggests performing this exercise while seated. Close your teeth gently, just so the upper and lower teeth touch. Use a mirror to make sure they’re lined up, not skewed to one side or the other. Touch your tongue to the roof of your mouth just behind your front teeth. Run the tip of your tongue backwards as far as it goes over the soft palate, keeping your teeth together. Then slowly open your mouth until you feel your tongue start to be pulled away from the roof of the mouth. Hold this position for five seconds. Relax a moment, and repeat.
The American Academy of Family Physicians recommends applying light pressure with two fingers to the bottom of your chin and opening your mouth against that slight resistance. You can follow that with the opposite — placing your fingers between your lower lip and chin, and opening your mouth against that resistance.
Stretches to Alleviate TMJ Symptoms
Stretching the muscles in your jaw can help relieve pain associated with overly tense muscles. The American Academy of Family Physicians recommends touching your tongue to the roof of your mouth and opening and closing your mouth, keeping your tongue in contact with the roof of the mouth at all times.
It’s also important to stretch the jaw in other directions besides just open and closed. You can move your lower jaw forward, backward, and side to side, holding each position for a few seconds and exhaling before returning to center.
Take these slowly and gently, and if you experience pain, stop immediately. You wouldn’t want to overdo it and cause more pain or discomfort than you already experience. You also should not hear popping or clicking from your jaw during the exercises. If you do, start over and make sure you are following all instructions.
If you perform these stretches and exercises once or twice a day, you will help your jaw muscles learn correct movement, and can alleviate some of your symptoms. But while exercises like these can support TMJ treatment, they can’t replace it. Those with TMJ should seek treatment from an experienced TMJ dentist.
Dr. Adam Hahn is ready to put his TMJ dentistry experience to work for patients in and around Columbia, SC. Please call (803) 781-9090 or contact Smile Columbia Dentistry online to schedule an appointment and learn what treatments could work for your symptoms.