Jaw discomfort can be disruptive and painful—and may be related to a temporomandibular joint and muscle disorder (or TMJ disorder). These conditions affect the jaw joint and muscles that make it possible to open and close your mouth, and can be caused by a number of factors, including arthritis, joint dislocation, injury, tooth and jaw alignment, stress, and teeth grinding.
What’s more, TMJ is more common than you might think: An estimated 10 million Americans have a TMJ disorder! So how to prevent TMJ? Here are 5 tips and TMJ prevention exercises to relieve stress on the jaw:
Eat Softer Foods
To help reduce jaw hyperactivity—and prevent muscles from working too hard—try eating softer foods. On the flip side, minimize chewy or hard foods, limit how often you chew gum, and avoid biting your nails, as well as other hard objects like pens, pencils, etc. Chew with both sides of your mouth and take smaller bites to avoid overworking your jaw.
Avoid Grinding or Clenching Your Teeth
Clenching and grinding can exert a lot of pressure on your teeth and jaw, causing tension and discomfort. A mouth guard can help prevent teeth grinding at night—and putting your tongue between your teeth can help control it during the day.
Keep Your Face and Jaw Muscles Relaxed
Massage your jaw, cheeks, and temples. Try relaxation techniques to control jaw tension, such as meditation or biofeedback. Keep your lips together and teeth slightly apart as often as you can to relieve pressure on your jaw.
Practice Good Posture
Good posture can help reduce neck and facial pain. In addition, be mindful of your everyday movements. Avoid resting your chin on your hand. Don’t hold the phone between your shoulder and your ear. If you spend a lot of time at a desk, consider investing in ergonomic furniture.
Stretch Your Jaw
Loosen up your jaw with a gentle stretching exercise. Start by pressing the tip of your tongue to the roof of your mouth, then slowly open your mouth as far as you can without it becoming painful. If you feel any pain, stop the exercise. You may be able to do it later, when your jaw is more relaxed.
If you’re already experiencing TMJ symptoms and are looking for strategies for how to prevent TMJ pain from worsening, possible treatments include exercises to strengthen your jaw muscles, orthodontic treatment or a night guard to prevent teeth grinding, muscle relaxants, or botox injections to alleviate pain.
However, when it comes to treating TMJ, we believe in a “less is often best” approach (as does the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research), so start with the prevention tips above. And if you have any questions about how to prevent TMJ disorder—or how to prevent a TMJ flare up—please contact us! Dr. Giaquinto and the team at Cottonwood Dental can help identify any jaw dysfunction and suggest effective prevention/treatment options for you.
About The Author
Dentist at Cottonwood Dental
Dentistry is a profession that requires many layers of knowledge and training. My background encompasses three post-grad degrees along with a command of aesthetics and precision. Both of those are necessary when creating the great results that we promise our patients. Being a graduate of the University of New Mexico and Marquette University School of Dentistry has provided me with a launching point for my practice at Cottonwood Dental. My ongoing research… [Read full bio]