Do you know that you can have TMJ pain in your TMJ joint that connects your mandible or lower jaw to the skull?
The temporomandibular joint or TMJ joint is found on both sides of your head in front of your ears and allows you to open and close your jaw.
Therefore, because of this joint, you can speak and eat.
TMJ disorders are a group of conditions that affects the muscles and bones of your jaw.
Moreover, they can cause pain in the joint that connects your jaw to the skull.
This pain often stems from the muscles responsible for moving your joint or the joint itself.
Conservative or noninvasive therapies can help to reduce the pain and stiffness from these disorders.
Additionally, these also include exercises that help to improve the strength and function of the jaw.
This article sums up the causes, symptoms, TMJ disorders, and some exercises that can help alleviate the symptoms.
Symptoms of TMJ Pain
Symptoms of TMJ pain depend on the severity and the cause of your condition.
One of the most common symptoms of TMJ is a pain in your jaw and the surrounding muscles.
Other symptoms that are usually associated with these disorders are:
Pain that you may experience in your face or neck, stiffness in the muscles of the jaw, and locking of the jaw.
Moreover, limited movement of your jaw, clicking or popping sound from the TMJ site, and shift in the jaw or changes in the way your upper and lower jaw aligns is called Malocclusion.
It is important to note that these symptoms may show up on just one side f your face or both.
Causes of TMJ Pain
TMJ joint allows your jaw to move when you eat, talk or yawn. These joints, muscles, and ligaments help to control the jaw on either side of it.
According to the American Dental Association, each joint has a disk inside that provides cushioning effect as the jaw moves.
However, any misalignment in the system of muscles, ligaments, and the disk can cause pain, stiffness, or discomfort in the TMJ.
In most cases, the causes of TMJ disorder are unknown.
However, trauma to your jaw or joint may also play a role. There are also a number of health conditions that can also contribute to the development of TMJD.
On the other hand, there are some other factors that doctors and dentists associate with the development of TMJ pain.
However, they have not been proven to cause TMJD.
These are the use of orthodontic braces, poor posture that strains the muscles of your neck and face, continuous stress, poor diet, and lack of sleep.
Some of the other causes are dental surgery, insertion of a breathing tube during surgery, autoimmune diseases, or infections.
According to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, NIDCR, that injuries to the joint, disk within the joint, or muscles or ligaments responsible for moving the jaw may also cause pain.
Exercises for TMJ Pain
In some cases, you might find that certain exercises that help to stretch and strengthen the jaw can help reduce the pain from TMJ disorders.
These exercises specifically target the muscles of your jaw and neck to strengthen them.
In the following part, we will list 7 exercises that can help to reduce the symptoms and explain how to perform them.
However, it is important to consult your doctor or physical therapist before starting these exercises.
Moreover, you should also stop performing these exercises if you experience severe pain or discomfort.
Let’s discuss these exercises as follows:
1# Resisted Mouth Closing
This exercise involves applying a certain amount of pressure to your chin while closing the mouth.
To perform this exercise follow the steps below:
Place your thumbs under the chin. Then place your index finger between the ridge of the mouth and the bottom of your chin.
Use the fingers and thumb to apply gentle downward pressure to your chin, while closing your mouth.
2# Resisted Mouth Opening
For this exercise, you can apply gentle pressure to the chin while opening your mouth.
To perform this exercise, follow the steps below:
Place two fingers under your chin and open your mouth slowly, while applying gentle pressure with your fingers.
Hold this for about 3 to 6 seconds.
Later close your mouth slowly.
3# Side-to-Side Jaw Movement
Side-to-side jaw movement involves moving your jaw from one side to another. This helps to strengthen the muscles.
Perform the following steps:
Gently bite down with the front teeth on an object that is about one quarter on an inch thick like two tongue depressors.
Slowly move your jaw from side to side.
You can increase the thickness of the object once you feel comfortable and the exercise becomes easier.
4# Forward Jaw Movement
This exercise also needs you to use a thin object. You can follow the steps:
Gently hold an object that is about one-quarter of an inch thick between the front teeth.
Then move your jaw forward so that your bottom teeth are in front of the top teeth.
Thus, as this exercise becomes easier, you can replace the object with a thicker one.
5# Oxford University Hospitals Exercise
According to the recommendations of Oxford University Hospitals, following a routine can help to strengthen your jaw muscles and prevent clicking in the jaw joint.
Thus, you can perform this exercise sequence for at least 5 minutes twice a day:
Close your mouth and let your teeth touch without clenching them.
Place the tip of your tongue on the palate right behind the upper front teeth.
Run the tip of your tongue back toward the soft palate until it cannot reach further while keeping the teeth together.
Therefore, you can repeat the steps for 5 minutes at least.
6# Goldfish Exercise or Partial Opening
Place your tongue on the roof of your mouth and one finger in front of the ear where the TMJ is located.
Place your middle or pointer finger on the chin and drop the lower jaw halfway and then close.
There should be mild resistance, however, no pain.
On the other hand, you can also use a variation of this exercise.
For this, place one finger on each TMJ as you drop your lower jaw halfway and close again.
You can perform this exercise 6 times in one set and make sure to perform 1 set at least six times daily.
7# Goldfish Exercises or Full Opening
Keeping your tongue on the roof of your mouth, place one finger on the TMJ and another one on your chin.
Drop your lower jaw completely and back.
However, you can also try a variation of this exercise.
For this, you need to place one finger on each TMJ as you completely drop your lower jaw and back.
Repeat this exercise 6 times to complete one set. Therefore, you should complete on set 6 times daily.
Other ways to Manage your TMJ Pain
Over-the-counter, OTC pain relievers like ibuprofen and acetaminophen can help relieve TMJ pain.
Moreover, prescription muscle relaxants for severe pain can also help.
Your doctor may recommend:
- mouth guards to prevent teeth grinding and jaw clenching
- mouth guards to help realign the jaw
- warm towels
- placing ice for 15 minutes per hour and not directly on the skin
- stress-relief techniques. These help to prevent behaviors that cause jaw tension
- acupuncture to relieve pressure in the affected area.
However, severe pain that you might experience due to damage of the joints may need more invasive treatment.
These include using corticosteroids injections into the TMJ.
Moreover, surgery can also be considered as a last resort.
There is not much scientific evidence that proves that surgical interventions for TMJ are safe and effective.
Moreover, you can also manage TMJ pain with the help of simple lifestyle changes.
You can eat a soft diet to allow the TMJ to relax, avoid chewing gum, biting your nails, biting your lower lip, practicing good posture, and limit large jaw movements like jawning and singing.
Relieving Pain During Dental Care
If you have TMJ, it can often be painful to practice regular oral hygiene.
This includes brushing your teeth, flossing, and getting routine dental cleanings.
Moreover, according to the TMJ Association, the following tips can help reduce pain and help make sure that your teeth and gums stay healthy.
Use a soft-bristle brush or a sonic toothbrush, use a rubber tip stimulator or water flosser if you are unable to open your mouth to floss.
You can also add an antiseptic mouth rinse to your daily oral care regime, tell your dental care team if you are in pain during a procedure, and apply ice or heat after a dental procedure.
Make sure to consult your dentist about different ways to remove plaque other than flossing your teeth.
For instance, they may suggest wiping your teeth with the help of cotton gauze.
In most cases, TMJ disorders go away on their own. If in any case, your symptoms persist, TMJ exercises can help bring relief.
The exercises should not be done if you do not have severe pain. If you are going to start a TMJ exercise regimen, be sure to wait until the pain is better. Whenever you start doing TMJ exercises. start by doing them slowly. It is notable that you feel some pain at first but then after the passage of time it becomes tolerable.
If the pain is not tolerable then it is important that you consult your doctor immediately. Be sure to do TMJ exercises when you feel relaxed for better results.