TMJ disorder 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. At-home exercises aren’t considered a standalone treatment for TMJ. However, they can serve as a support therapy to help you get even better results from treatment by Columbia, SC, TMJ dentist Dr. Adam Hahn.

The Evidence

Published in the Journal of Dental Research in 2010, one study assigned fifty-two participants joint mobilization exercises and recorded the outcome according to a set of four variables. These variables were related to the mouth-opening range with and without pain, maximum daily pain intensity, and limitation of daily functions. The results showed that people saw improvement in all variables after about 8 weeks under both treatment types.

In addition, a 2019 review of 11 studies found that noninvasive TMJ treatment can reduce the severity of tinnitus. The study also notes that the combination of exercises and bite splint therapy is the best-studied and most successful noninvasive TMJ treatment in terms of the impact on tinnitus severity. Researchers noted that there wasn’t enough data analysis in the included studies to let them pool the data, but said, “it is noteworthy that all included studies show positive treatment effects.”

Before You Start Exercising

Although exercise can be beneficial, it can also be damaging. Just as it’s a good idea to talk to your doctor before you start a new exercise routine–especially if you have pain–it’s important to talk to Columbia TMJ dentist Dr. Adam Hahn before starting jaw exercises.

Don’t start exercises before Dr. Hahn clears you. If your jaw joint is imbalanced or damaged, exercises could lead to joint damage. It’s also important to pay attention to your symptoms. If your symptoms start to get worse when you’re exercising, stop immediately and contact a dentist.

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 index 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 as wide as you can open 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 the 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. In response to discomfort and noises, start over and make sure you are following all instructions. If discomfort or noises persist, please contact Columbia, SC TMJ dentist Dr. Hahn for expert care.

If you perform these stretches and exercises once or twice a day, you will help your jaw muscles learn correct jaw movement and can alleviate some of your symptoms. But while exercises like these can support TMJ treatment, they can’t replace it. If you know you have TMJ, you should seek treatment from experienced Columbia TMJ dentist Dr. Hahn.

Jaw Rotation Exercises

Jaw rotation exercises are a popular rehabilitation exercise for those suffering from TMJ. There are two variations: side-to-side and back-to-front. To perform the side-to-side exercises, you’ll need a quarter-inch object to place between your teeth. Softly clamp down, then roll your jaw from one side to another, gradually increasing the thickness of the object for more difficulty. Back-to-front exercises are performed in a similar way. With a quarter-inch object clamped between your teeth, slowly stretch your jaw forward then back.

Jaw Chin-Up

Think of this as not lifting yourself above a bar but lifting your chin to the sky. Put your hands behind your back, activate your shoulders by pulling downward, and point your thumb under your chin high into the air, holding this position for twenty seconds before doing the inverse, doing chin tucks as low as possible.

Try these exercises regularly to relieve TMJ pain. It also may be helpful to schedule an appointment with a Columbia TMJ dentist for a TMJ consultation. Treatments such as mouth splints have also been known to lower pain.

Relief for TMJ and Tinnitus in Columbia, SC

Dr. Adam Hahn in Columbia, SC has experience helping people with all stages and types of TMJ. They can help you, too. Please call (803) 781-9090 or email Smile Columbia Dentistry today to schedule an appointment our dentist.